The Erie County District Attorney recently announced the creation of a new enhanced multidisciplinary team (eDMT) to help combat the 1,600 cases of senior financial exploitation reported each year in the country. The approach is a brand new model design to create a public-private partnership across multiple disciplines to investigate, prosecute, and educate the public about the very real danger facing many vulnerable elders both in the county and the state as a whole.
According to the Erie County District Attorney’s website, the eDMT “is coordinated by social worker Kathy Kanaley of Center for Elder Law & Justice, and includes the Erie County District Attorney’s office and representatives from Erie County Adult Protective Services and Senior Services.” Furthermore, the task force includes a forensic accountant assisting in the accounting of stolen funds, as well as a geriatric psychiatrist to help with determinations of capacity.
“This collaboration will help our office spot and aggressively prosecute those who prey on these vulnerable members of society,” said Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn. “The sooner we can take action, the easier it will be to get justice for these elderly victims.”
Calling the effort a coordinated, person-centered approach, the eDMT will meet once a month to discusses ongoing cases, create action plans, and to develop new means to track elder financial exploitation and prosecute cases. According to the eDMT’s announcement, as few as 1 in 24 cases of elder financial exploitation are actually reported, making enforcement and deterrence that much more difficult.
Statewide statistics on elder abuse and exploitation show a disturbing trend plaguing our beloved seniors trying to enjoy their golden years in health and happiness. An estimated 260,000 seniors in New York State suffer some form of abuse, with financial exploitation amongst the leading type of mistreatment. Nationally, seniors lose $36 billion every year due to financial exploitation.
What can I do to prevent elder financial exploitation?
Financial exploitation can happen to almost anyone at anytime but seniors appear to be most vulnerable to the illicit practice. To help prevent financial exploitation of your loved one, stay up to date on the latest scams con artists and other thieves may use to try and syphon off money and talk to your senior relative about the practices.
Furthermore, it may be a good idea to discuss some sort of power of attorney to place certain financial decision making powers in the hands of yourself or another trusted individual to act as a barrier to fraud. Even if your elder is capable of performing almost any other task for him or herself, it may be in his or her best interest to allow you or another to manage funds necessary to ensure bills are paid and debts are not incurred.