The County Commissioners’ Court signed a resolution on April 29, 2019, declaring May “Elder Abuse Prevention Month” in Victoria County, Texas. Adult Protective Services (APS) investigates approximately 40 – 50 cases in the greater Victoria-area each month. APS handles reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of adults with disabilities or people 65 years of age or older. Signs of abuse may be easy to see, including scratches, cuts, bruises, burns, broken bones, or bedsores. However, abuse might also include the unseen, such as confinement, rape, sexual misconduct, and verbal or psychological abuse. Neglect can include starvation, dehydration, over- or under-medication, unsanitary living conditions, or lack of personal hygiene. Neglected adults might not have heat, running water, electricity, or medical care. Exploitation can include the loss of property, money, or income, including misappropriation or misuse of resources of an elderly or disabled person. Exploitation might include the taking of Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) checks, misusing a joint checking account, or taking property and other resources.
A February 2019 report issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) presented the analysis of 180,000 elder financial exploitation Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) filed by banks, credit unions, casinos, and other financial service providers. The results were staggering, showing that filings had quadrupled from 2013 to 2017. In 2017, financial institutions alone filed 63,500 SARs reporting suspected elder financial abuse; yet, these SARs are thought to be only a small fraction of the estimated 3.5 million incidents of elder financial exploitation to have happened that year. Older adults, ages 70 to 79, lost $43,300, on average. When the older adult knew the suspected abuser, the average loss was even larger, around $50,000, per instance.
While financial institutions are increasingly filing elder exploitation SARs, fewer than one-third of these SARs indicate that the activity in question was reported to Adult Protective Services (APS), law enforcement, or other authorities. Making these reports to first responders is an opportunity to strengthen the prevention and response of elder exploitation in our communities. If you know or suspect that you or a loved one has been a victim of a scam or other fraud, you may report it directly to the both the local authorities and the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.
If you see or suspect elder abuse, financial or otherwise, you can report it at 1-800-252-5400, or online at https://www.txabusehotline.org/Login/Default.aspx.
If the situation is urgent and needs to be investigated within 24 hours, please call the hotline rather than submitting a request online. If the situation is an emergency or life-threatening, please call 911 or the appropriate local law enforcement agency immediately.