April 11, 2012

Tips to Avoid Becoming Elder Financial Abuse Victim

by Levin & Perconti

Each Chicago elder abuse attorney at our firm continues to warn local seniors about the risks of falling for a scam or other form of elder financial exploitation. Perhaps more than any other single form of abuse, more seniors are taken advantage of by others seeking to get at their pocketbooks. Fighting back against these abusers, thieves, and scam artists requires a multi-pronged approach. Part of that effort is raising awareness among seniors and providing information to help them recognize the misconduct and fight back.

Recently, the Martin Independent Journal provided a helpful article on the topic that summarized the lessons shared at a recent fraud prevention workshop. The workshops were sponsored by a local state representative who emphasized that of the 850 cases in the area of reported elder abuse last year, 42% involved financial exploitation. In addition, many instances of exploitation are never reported, and so the overall percentage of fraud as a portion of elder abuse cases might actually be higher.

Participating in the seminar were various professionals in different fields where different scam techniques are used. A local contractor, pharmacist, representative from the U.S. Postal Service, and a health advocate all joined in to share information on various scams and the way to catch them. The experts focused on four different types of scams: crooked contractors, Medicare fraud, mail fraud, and medication issues at pharmacies.

A few of the tip shared at the event of value to local seniors and their loved ones include…

1) Hire only state-licensed contractors for all jobs costing over $500.

2) Never hire the first person who comes to the door. Get at least three bids to compare prices and get a feel for how the particular contractor seems legitimate and engaged in the work.

3) Ensure that you receive references from all workers and that all project expectations are put down in writing. There should be no surprises.

4) Never pay more than 10% of a project total cost in advance and never more than $1,000 in advance.

5) Do not believe claims from medical companies suggesting that certain medical devices need to be purchased before “Obamacare” ends Medicaid support for them.

6) Be persistent about medical care paid for but not received. One company accepted money for colonoscopies that were never received. When patients complained, the companies said that the seniors had a problem with their memory. Share information about payments and tests with trusted family members to provide an extra layer of oversight.

7) Be wary of internet pharmacies. Ninety-five percent of them are not legitimate.

8) Never send money to collect lottery winning from other countries. Foreign lotteries are illegal under federal law anyway.

Our Chicago elder abuse attorneys understand the challenges faced by seniors trying to ward off the unscrupulous who seek to take advantage of them. It is important for all community members to work together to hold these scammers accountable. If you even suspect that a contractor, health care company, or other group may be part of a scam, be sure to take action. The best option is often to call the federal Office of Inspector General and report the concerns. They can be reached at 1-800-HHS-TIPS.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Editorial Lambasts Washington for Ignoring Elder Abuse

Elder Financial Abuse Reaching Crisis Levels, Say Researchers