Local senior care experts are urging Allegheny and Washington County families to be alert for scammers who may be targeting their senior loved ones with a variety of clever cons that could jeopardize not only their life savings, but their independence.
“Scam artists are specifically targeting seniors, because they are the fastest-growing segment of the population, which has led to increased demands on law enforcement agencies,” said Lucy Novelly, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care® offices serving seniors in Southwest Allegheny and Washington Counties. “This scenario has the potential to put more local seniors than ever at risk of losing their life savings, their homes and their trust in others.”
As a result, the nonprofit National Association of Triads and the local Home Instead Senior Care office have launched a public information program to educate families and seniors about how to protect themselves. The Home Instead Senior Care office in Bethel Park also will be hosting a shredding event open to the public on Thursday, Aug. 23 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at its office parking lot at 2000 Oxford Drive.
The Protect Seniors from FraudSM program – developed with the expert assistance of the Triads – provides family caregivers with a number of important tools at ProtectSeniorsFromFraud.com. Included in the website’s various resources is a Criminal Target Scale, which can help family caregivers assess how likely their senior is to be the potential target of a scam. A Senior Fraud Protection Kit also is available from the local franchise office.
According to experts, the top three crimes targeting seniors are identity theft, Medicaid/Medicare and medication fraud, and financial exploitation. The demographics of an aging population and the sophistication of scammers are adding up to big losses – both financially and emotionally – for older adults. The annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is estimated to be at least $2.9 billion, a 12 percent increase since 2008*.
“Our CAREGivers are always on the lookout for potential scams that target senior clients, helping them screen phone calls and deal with questionable pieces of mail. We’re pleased to provide the tools to help family caregivers as well as seniors ward off increasingly cunning con artists and their elaborate schemes to defraud local adults,” Novelly said.
What makes con artists difficult to capture is the lack of reporting of this crime, experts note. “A recent AARP study found that only 25 percent of victims over age 55 have reported to authorities that they’ve fallen for a scam,” said Ed Hutchison, director of the National Association of Triads, Inc.
“These seniors may be afraid to be seen as vulnerable by the law and those in a position to tell them that, perhaps, they are not fit to continue living by themselves. It’s a perceived threat of a loss of independence that drives many to keep quiet,” said Hutchison, whose 820 state Triads – part of the National Sheriffs’ Association – work with local seniors, law enforcement and community volunteers to help keep seniors safe.
To obtain a free Senior Fraud Protection Kit, contact the Home Instead Senior Care office serving Washington and Southwest Allegheny Counties at 412-595-7554 or 724-222-7700 or visit www.homeinstead.com/swpittsburgh or www.homeinstead.com/washingtonpa.