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Protecting senior citizens from fraud

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A new program, serving Barry and Lawrence counties, will help adult caregivers prevent scammers from targeting their elderly parents.

The Home Instead Senior Care office in Joplin, a provider of non-medical in-home care services for seniors, is offering tools to help senior citizens be aware of and prevent scammers from jeopardizing their life savings and independence.

"Scam artists are specifically targeting seniors, because they are the fastest growing segment of the population," said Adam Bokker, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office in Joplin. "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."

Home Instead Senior Care has partnered with the National Association of Triads (NATI) to launch a public information campaign to educate families and seniors on how to protect themselves. NATI is a partnership of law enforcement, older adults and community groups that promote older adult safety and reduce fear of crime that older adults often experience.

The Protect Seniors from Fraud program, developed with the assistance of the Triads, provides family caregivers with a number of important tools on the Internet at ProtectSeniorsFromFraud.com. The website offers various resources, including a criminal target scale that can help family caregivers assess how likely their senior is to become the potential target of a scam. The Senior Fraud Protection Kit is also available from the Joplin office.

The three top crimes committed against seniors are identity theft, Medicaid/Medicare fraud, medication fraud and financial exploitation.

"The demographics of an aging population and the sophistication of scammers are adding up to big losses," said Bokker. "Both financially and emotionally."

The annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is estimated to be at least $2.9 billion annually, up 12 percent since 2008.

Capturing scam artists is difficult, according to Ed Hutchison, director of the National Association of Triads, Inc.

"Seniors are often reluctant to report a crime fearing they will be seen as vulnerable by law and those in a position to tell them they can't continue living by themselves," said Hutchison. "It's the perceived loss of independence that drives many to keep quiet."

To obtain a free Senior Fraud Protection Kit, contact the Home Instead Senior Care office in Joplin at 417-625-1868.



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