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Attorney General Janet T. Mills Recognizes World Elder Abuse Awarness Day and Highlights Programs to Help Maine Seniors
June 15, 2010
Contact: Kate Simmons (207) 626-8577
To recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Attorney General Janet T. Mills reminds Maine seniors and those who care for them that elder abuse can take many forms, including financial abuse from scam artists, as well as financial exploitation and physical and mental abuse.
“Maine seniors deserve to be cared for and respected and not fall victim to financial scams or physical abuse,” stated Attorney General Mills. “My office is committed to protecting seniors from deceptive marketing scams and providing resources to elders who are being taken advantage of by those who seek to diminish their quality of life.”
The Attorney General’s Office has recently seen a number of scams targeted specifically at Maine’s elder citizens. These include the “grandparent” scam in which a scam artist calls seniors and claims to be their grandchild. The scammer explains that the grandchild needs money to be sent urgently for legal defense or another emergency and instructs the grandparents where to send the money and not to tell the child’s parents. The money winds up in the scam artist’s pocket and the grandparents learn later that they were deceived.
Scam artists are also contacting Medicare-eligible seniors and asking for them to divulge personal financial information to be eligible for a $250 check to cover medication costs not covered by Medicare Part D. Seniors enrolled in the Medicare Part D program who have spent more than $2,830 on prescription drugs are eligible for this one-time check. The check is sent automatically, and seniors should not share any personal financial information with anyone over the phone who is claiming that they must do so to qualify for their check.
Another scam targeting seniors is the sweepstakes or lottery scam. Seniors receive a call or letter from the scammer congratulating them on a prize they have won and explaining that they need to send some amount of money to take care of taxes or other shipping or transaction fees.
Many lonely seniors in particular fall prey to these types of scams. The scammers call frequently and as a result, the elderly feel that they have developed a “friendship” and a sense of trust with the scammers. In one instance earlier this year, an elderly Maine woman had sent scammers more than $250,000 over several months. When warned about sending them any more money, she responded “They’re waiting for the money and they trust me.”
“Scam artists are continually creating new scams to unfairly take advantage of Maine seniors,” stated Attorney General Mills. “Seniors need to protect themselves and be skeptical of anyone who asks them to give money over the phone.”
Elderly residents of Maine who are concerned that they are being scammed should contact their local law enforcement office immediately or call the Attorney General’s Office at 626-8800.
Elders can also suffer from physical abuse and financial exploitation that is more destructive and that can occur in any setting. The Office of the Attorney General is committed to the protection of Maine's elderly citizens, and an investigator is assigned to facilitate the prevention, reporting, investigation and prosecution of elder abuse cases in Maine. In 2009, the Healthcare Crimes Unit of the Office of Attorney General received more than 1,100 referrals alleging abuse, neglect or exploitation of elder and vulnerable Mainers.
The alleged abusers are often family members or health care providers. Signs of abuse, neglect and exploitation include: bruising, fractures, abrasions, burns, pressure sores, dehydration, weight loss, inappropriate or soiled clothing, untreated medical conditions, and improper medication.
Signs of financial exploitation may include: unpaid bills, maxed out credit cards, re-financing the home when the senior depends on social security for income, lack of essential services to care for the victim, unexplained disappearance of funds or valuables, sudden excessive gifting absent a historical pattern, change in payee or power of attorney, reports from the elder that they signed papers they could not identify, and withdrawal or isolation from family and friends.
“Victims of elder abuse often cannot report that they are being harmed either because they are dependent on the abusing caregiver and fear retaliation or they are physically unable to contact someone for help,” stated Attorney General Mills. “To help protect our elders, Maine people must be aware of the signs of elder abuse and how we all can help.”
Most victims never come forward and it is estimated that 84% of all elder abuse is never reported to authorities.
If you suspect abuse please call, the Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-624-8404. You may also report suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation to the Healthcare Crimes Unit at 207-626-8870 or online at AG.HCU@Maine.gov. If the incident needs immediate attention, please call 911.
For more information about elder abuse visit http://www.maine.gov/ag/
The Office of the Attorney General also leads Maine Elder Death Analysis Review Team (MEDART) to review deaths and cases of serious bodily injury associated with suspected abuse or neglect of elderly and vulnerable adults.
The team’s membership includes representation from state, local and county law enforcement, prosecutors, victim advocates, licensing and certification, adult protective services, and mental health, a sexual assault nurse examiner and a geriatrician or a primary care physician.
MEDART meets bi-monthly to review selected cases, the purpose of which is to identify whether systems that have the purpose or responsibility to assist or protect victims were sufficient for the particular circumstances or whether such systems require adjustment or improvement.
MEDART seeks to foster system change that will improve the response to victims and prevent similar outcomes in the future.
For more information about MEDART, please visit: http://www.maine.gov/ag/elder_issues/medart.shtml -end-