How to protect senior citizens from abuse and exploitation - Tucson News Now

How to protect senior citizens from abuse and exploitation

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Investigators with Arizona's Adult Protective Services found more substantial claims of elderly exploitation in Pima County than anywhere else last year.

Sunday marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, so caregivers and law enforcement in Pima County are spreading a message of prevention.

Twenty of 39 substantial exploitation cases occurred in Pima County, and Margie Lannon with Homewatch Caregivers said she has mixed feelings about the statistic.

I'm glad to hear it because that means it's being reported in Pima County," she said. "But I'm afraid that's probably only half of what's happening out there, because a lot of people report it but there's nothing they can do."

Lannon refers to a case involving a recent client of hers. She said an independent caretaker moved in with an elderly woman whose husband had just passed away. Lannon said the family of this 86-year-old woman contacted her after their loved one spent hundreds of dollars on internet installation.

By the time Lannon looked into it, she said the senior citizen had turned over everything to the caretaker, including power of attorney. She said the family called for a formal investigation, but the elderly woman reported no wrongdoing.

"The clients don't realize that they're being taken advantage of, and that's the hardest part," said Lannon.

Exploitation is not always so personal, according to the Pima County Sheriff's Department. Detective Crehan said the department fields numerous calls about potential mail, phone and Internet scams.

"We don't like to say it, but these don't always have a high resolution rate," said Crehan.

Several factors contribute to the low success rate she said. Many times investigators track numbers and addresses that are no longer in service or out of state. Crehan said it makes prevention all the more important.

She said some folks report the suspicious activity after it's too late and they've lost their money. Crehan said many times it's just a matter of trusting common sense.

Warning signs of exploitation

The Better Business Bureau considers the following as possible signs that your loved ones are being exploited or abused:

• Belongings or property is missing
• Unusual bank account activity
• Complaints from seniors that they can suddenly not afford normal purchases
• Suspicious stories about people that normally wouldn't be involved in personal affairs now being involved
• Unnecessary purchases (often big-ticket items)
• Sudden changes to Power of Attorney or will
• Sudden interest in an investment or business opportunity
• Claims they have won a prize, lottery or vacation
• Numerous unpaid bills or bounced checks

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