February 26, 2014
Groups work to protect vulnerable
What to look for
Unopened bills or confusion over the balance of
a checking or savings account could be an
indication of vulnerability. "If you see such
changes, raise your concerns gently," Rothrock
Other signs include:
• A transfer of property or savings
• Excessive payment for care and or other
• A change in a payee, power of attorney or will
• A caregiver who's overly frugal
• Unusual or new people living in the household
• The older adult is kept isolated
• The signature on the check doesn't resemble
• You loved one doesn't know what happened
to the money
• Their social Security benefit isn't deposited
into the proper account
• They report signing papers but don't know
what they signed.
What to do?
All too often, the situations aren't reported
because the older person feels embarrassed or
depends on the person who's stealing from
them. One study estimates older Americans lost
about $2.9 billion to financial exploitation in
2010, according to DARS.
Adult children who suspect financial exploitation
can take steps to stop it, however.
Parents are often reluctant to discuss finances
with their children, so it may be helpful to get a
trusted clergy or financial or legal
representative to join the conversation.
Suspected financial exploitation can be
reported to your local Adult Protective Services
unit —(540) 949-7141 — or call the toll-free, 24-
hour hotline: (888) 832-3858. Reports can be
made anonymously to either one.
Exploiting an older person financially is stealing,
See adds, so law enforcement can also be
Blue Ridge Legal Services can be reached
|Greater Augusta Coalition Against Adult Abuse
The diversity of professions, See said, was vital
to opening windows on adult abuse that might
be unfamiliar to some people.
“Some might know about one type of abuse, but
not another,” she said.
As for Kieffer, who’s leading Thursday’s
presentation, she’s worked for 16 years in the
field of financial education, experience that
includes employment with Sallie Mae and
Kieffer mentioned investment fraud, identity
theft and other types of fraud as topics that may
emerge during Thursday’s presentation. “We’ll
also talk about prevention strategies … and
One of the first problems older adults face,
Kieffer said, is that they’re more highly targeted
than younger adults. That finding comes from
data collected by the FINRA foundation in 2012.
The same research indicates that older adults
are more likely to lose money, once they are
targeted, than younger adults are.
A few years ago, Anne S. See and other staff
members at Blue Ridge Legal Services
observed increasing numbers of cases involving
financial exploitation and other types of abuse
perpetrated upon vulnerable adults. Many, she
noticed, were older, and some had disabilities.
So, See and other staff members decided to
take action. They applied for funding from the
Administration on Aging, part of the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services.They
received a $10,000 grant, and in January 2011
the Greater Augusta Coalition Against Adult
Abuse began its work.
Now, See co-chairs the coalition, along with Cpl.
Derek Almarode of the Augusta County Sheriff’s
Office. The group has helped to coordinate
training and information sessions for law
enforcement officials, social workers and others
who work with vulnerable, often older, adults.
The coalition’s work continues Thursday with a
guest presentation by Christine Kieffer, senior
director of the FINRA Investor Education
Foundation, at 3 p.m. at the Valley Licensing
Office, 57 Beam Ave., Fishersville. People
interested in attending can call (800) 237-0141
The presentation will dig into ways to help
people combat financial crimes against
“We want to make sure we have tools for
advocates who may have encountered people
in a crisis situation,” Kieffer said.
See, who works as a public benefits and elder
law paralegal with Blue Ridge Legal Services,
with offices in Harrisonburg, suggested that
money is often entangled in the abuse she
sees. “Financial exploitation, in particular, we’re
seeing a lot of,” she said. She cited figures from
Virginia’s Adult Protective Service division
indicating 20,704 reports of abuse, neglect or
financial exploitation in Virginia in 2013. She
said more than half of those reports were
Of the substantiated reports, See said, 74
percent of the victims were 60 years old or older.
See said a key goal of the coalition has been to
create awareness among all residents, and she
also noted free training sessions for law
enforcement and other officials who investigate
and prosecute crimes involving vulnerable
She noted other means of outreach, as well.
See said more than 60 people and
organizations are participating in the coalition,
including law enforcement officials, nursing
home and assisted living staff members,
Augusta Health staff members, bank
professionals and adult protective service
Financial exploitation of older adults can involve
theft in many forms: income, cash, accounts,
assets, or property, See says.
"I had a case with an elderly gentleman who was
being cared for by a relative who abandoned
him to a nursing home," said the paralegal. "The
relative continued to get his checks. It was the
man's son who found and brought his father
home, and asked us to try to get the money
A most common situation See encounters is the
misuse of an older person's money by someone
who's living with them.
|STAUNTON – Sometimes the greatest gift you
can give an older loved one doesn't come with a
bow on top. It's your alert, caring eye for signs
of possible abuse.
Adult children who worry their parents may be
financially exploited by a relative, caregiver or
friend can often spot signs when the family gets
fraud is often committed by relatives of the
victim, relatives are also the ones most likely to
come to the rescue, suggests Jim Rothrock,
commissioner of the Dept. of Aging and
Anne See, a public benefits and elder law
paralegal at Blue Ridge Legal Services, says
her case load of late bears that out.
December 17, 2014
Protect older loved ones from theft
"They have access," she explained. "They're on
the bank account. But they use it for
themselves rather than the family member."
One of her current cases involves a woman in
an assisted living facility whose daughter is"It's
sad. The daughter's words to me were, 'My
mother never took care of me when I was little,
and I need to take care of my child, so I'm going
to use the money," See said.
She also finds many older people signing over
their homes to children who promise to care for
them, and then don't.
Some seniors come to her wanting to change
their power of attorney because they've
discovered it's being misused. The power of
attorney to make our medical or financial
decisions when we're no longer capable is a
powerful instrument. You must be fully
competent to give someone that power, and
fully competent to change it, See
says.Unfortunately, the exploitation often occurs
when the person has grown less capable. In
that case, Blue Ridge Legal Services tries to
help concerned family members petition the
court to become their loved one's guardian and
No money for public guardianship
When there's no family member to play that
role, See admits she doesn't even try to get
seniors on the state's list for a public
guardianship, because "I just know there's no
Almost 1,000 people are on a waiting list for
public guardianship in Virginia, according to the
paralegal, with only 10 slots funded for
Winchester, Harrisonburg and Staunton cities,
Rockingham, Augusta, Page, Warren,
Shenandoah, Frederick and Clarke counties.
The best prevention for these situations is
long-range planning, DARS' Rothrock counsels,
but it doesn't happen nearly enough. That's
where caring family come in, by noticing
memory changes or impairments that could
make your loved one vulnerable, he said.