Sadly, older Americans are not only subject to the same crimes as their younger compatriots, they are often specifically targeted. It’s important for people of all ages to know how to report a crime against the elderly. This information may prove to be critical in getting a parent, a neighbor, a colleague, or a friend the help they need.
How to Report a Crime Against the Elderly
How you report suspected elder abuse depends on the type and severity of the crime. If you believe someone is in imminent danger, call 9-1-1 right away to get immediate assistance. If you believe the person has been scammed or is the victim of a longer-term crime but is not in urgent, life-threatening danger, there are other resources that may be more appropriate.
- The Eldercare Locator is a national site than can connect you with various eldercare services in your state.
- The National Center on Elder Abuse website is a comprehensive resource with links to adult protective services in every state.
A mandated reporter is someone who is required by law to report suspicions of elder abuse. In most states, only certain categories of people — such as doctors and other health care workers — are mandated reporters. In eight states, anyone who suspects wrongdoing is required to contact the authorities. But no matter where you live, it’s the right thing to do.
What Are Crimes Against the Elderly?
You may be wondering, what are crimes against the elderly? The U.S. Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative (EDI) defines elder abuse as “an intentional or negligent act by any person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to an older adult.” Elderly people are one of the populations most susceptible to crime and abuse, and criminals take full advantage of their vulnerabilities. It’s estimated that 10% of older Americans are victimized every year. And older people may not report that they’ve been victimized, either because they are embarrassed or because they can’t due to cognitive disability.
Types of Crimes Against the Elderly
Elder abuse comes in many forms. Here are a few of the more common types of crimes against the elderly.
Physical abuse. Physical abuse may occur at the hands of a spouse, relative, guardian, or any caregiver. Signs of physical abuse include:
- The victim reports being abused
- Black eye, bruising, lacerations, welts, open wounds
- Fractured or broken bones
- Injuries in various stages of healing
- Sprains or dislocated joints
- Internal injuries
- Broken glasses
- Signs of being restrained or punished
- A sudden change in behavior
- A caregiver isolates the victim
- Indications of sexual abuse.
Financial fraud or exploitation. People may try to steal an elderly person’s identity, misuse power of attorney, or take control of finances without their knowledge. Signs of financial fraud include:
- An elderly person reports being defrauded
- A suspicious change in banking activity
- Unexplained bank withdrawals by a person accompanying the elder, including unauthorized ATM transactions
- Another person’s name is added to a bank signature card
- Sudden change in a will or other financial documents
- The elder’s signature is forged on financial documents and property titles
- An elderly person’s bills are not being paid or they are given substandard care despite adequate financial resources
- Relatives come out of the woodwork to claim their supposed right to the elder’s resources
- Unexplained transfer of assets to a relative or other person.
Scams and exploitation. Older people are highly vulnerable to scammers — and once they realize they have been taken advantage of, they may be too ashamed to speak up. The EJI outlines a few common types of schemes:
- Social Security Administration imposter scammers tell victims over the phone that their social security number has been suspended. The target is asked to confirm his or her SSN and may be told that they must withdraw money from their bank account to keep it safe.
- Tech support scams may be initiated over the phone or via an internet pop-up. The victim is told their computer has been compromised. A “tech support” person requests remote access to the computer, pretends to diagnose a problem, then tells the target they must pay for the computer to be fixed.
- Lottery scammers tell victims they have won a high-value prize in a foreign lottery — the catch being that they must pay shipping, duties, or other fees before claiming their winnings.
- IRS imposter scams tell victims over the phone that they owe money to the IRS that must be paid immediately. The target is told that if they don’t comply they face arrest, deportation, or other consequence.
- A romance scam uses the popularity of online dating sites. Scammers take advantage of elderly people looking for love by creating a credible profile, building a relationship over a period of time, and finally asking for money.
Neglect and abandonment. A family member or caregiver doesn’t have to hit or otherwise use violence to fail in their duty of care. Here are a few signs of neglect or abandonment:
- The elder reports being neglected
- Untreated medical conditions or health problems
- Dehydration and malnutrition
- Poor hygiene
- Bed sores left untreated
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Desertion of an elderly person.
Nursing home abuse. Nursing home abuse is not one type of abuse. It may overlap with the above categories with the only requirement being that it must take place in a licensed care facility. Here are a few crimes against the elderly that occur in nursing facilities:
- Physical, psychological, verbal, and sexual abuse
- Neglect and failure to provide for the resident’s basic needs
- Medication errors
- Financial exploitation and abuse
When abuse does occur in a nursing home, the facility may be found liable for your loved one’s mistreatment. It’s important to discuss your case with an experienced nursing home lawyer.
How to report a crime against the elderly is important to know for the safety of your older family members, friends, and neighbors. If you believe your loved one has been the victim of a crime, contact the SC elder abuse lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm by calling (803) 454-1200.
Bert Louthian has been practicing law in Columbia with his father, Herb, since 1985. After receiving his Juris Doctorate from the University of South Carolina, Bert launched his legal career in his father’s firm. With 80 years of legal experience between them, Louthian Law, P.A. remains Family-Owned and Family-Focused.
Bert understands that when life goes wrong – when you or someone you love gets hurt or suffers a loss, it can feel like nothing will ever be right or fair again. He gets up and goes to work every day to prove that feeling wrong – and does everything in his power to make things right again.