Today, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont will recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Around the world, organizations mark this day by voicing concern about the exploitation of vulnerable seniors and rallying individuals to identify and report suspected abuse.
Elder abuse refers to the intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or trusted individual that causes harm to an older person. Elder abuse includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse and exploitation, emotional and psychological abuse, and neglect. Elder abuse is both a social and economic issue. It causes tangible losses to victims (such as the loss of homes and savings), intangible losses to victims (such as the loss of dignity, independence, and safety), creates increased health care and legal costs, and can even result in the loss of life.
Elder abuse is largely underreported for multiple reasons. Seventy percent of elder abuse crimes are committed by victims’ relatives, friends, and acquaintances. Many seniors who experience abuse are reluctant to report it because of shame, fear of retribution, denial, or a close relationship with their victimizer. Further, some victims are unable to speak out due to dementia or other impairments. Elder abuse is truly an “invisible” problem that requires vigilance to be detected. Elder abuse affects people across all socioeconomic groups, cultures, and races, and occurs anywhere, particularly where a senior is disconnected from social supports.
Vermont is the second fastest-aging state in the country, and more than a quarter of the State’s population is over the age of 60. Nationally, 10% of Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse. Therefore, this “invisible” problem is likely a prevalent one in Vermont.
“Our nation has a moral obligation to protect our elders from all forms of abuse,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan A. Ophardt. “Vermonters pride ourselves on our dedication to our communities, and our collective efforts to protect the vulnerable. Over the past two years, the United States Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners have noted a marked uptick in the number of financial institutions reporting suspected elder financial exploitation. These have included lottery scams, romance scams, government impersonation scams, and suspected financial exploitation of the elderly by family members and trusted persons. According to federal law enforcement data, in the past 18 months over 200 complaints have been lodged by Vermont seniors, who reported dollar losses of over $1.9 million. I encourage all Vermonters to educate themselves on indicators of elder abuse and to report suspected abuse to authorities. The United States Attorney’s Office will continue to devote investigative and prosecutorial resources to hold bad actors who prey on the elderly accountable for their crimes. We also will continue to raise awareness of this problem to hopefully prevent abuse before it occurs.”
If you believe you are a victim of fraud, or know a senior who may be—regardless of financial loss—you may report the fraud directly to the FBI by calling 1-800-CALL FBI, report online at https://tips.fbi.gov, or to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. Suspected elder fraud can also be reported to the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-FRAUD-11. The hotline is staffed by experienced case managers who can provide assistance to elders and caretakers through assisting with reporting and referrals to appropriate services. More information on training, resources, research, and victim services is available at www.justice.gov/elderjustice.
Comments from U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland regarding World Elder Abuse Day can be found at the following link: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/statement-attorney-general-merrick-b-garland-world-elder-abuse-awareness-day
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