DENVER – The City of Denver is fighting back against elderly abuse with the creation of a new unit specifically tasked with investigating crimes against at-risk seniors and adults.
The new unit, called the Elder Abuse Unit, will be under the command of the Denver District Attorney’s Office and will focus on physical abuse and neglect crimes against at-risk adults – those aged 70 or older – and adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities. The unit will also expand to include prosecuting scammers who target senior citizens and other at-risk adults.
From their end, the Denver Police Department will be assigning one sergeant and three detectives to a new Special Victims Unit, all of whom will deal with crimes against the elderly.
How to protect the elderly from scammers
Elderly citizens lose an estimated $2.9 billion each year from scams, according to the American Journal of Public Health. Here’s what you can do to protect your older family members from scams:
1. Have “the talk” with them
They had the talk with you long ago, and now it’s time for you to have a different kind of talk with them. You can’t just tell them to throw away unsolicited letters or to never answer the phone from strangers.
Explain to them why it’s important to know that you just can’t win a contest out of the blue, or why the Denver Sheriff’s Deputies would never ask you for money for a citation or crime you did not commit. No one asks for personal information they more than likely have on file.
2. Don’t shame or blame your parents
Now you get to teach them an important lesson: Don’t trust random strangers – especially with money issues.
3. Use reserve psychology
If your elderly family member is falling victim to a money scam – ask him how he went about doing it so you could also join in. Psychologists say this makes people aware that something is wrong and shouldn’t have been done.
4. Unlist your parents’ phone number from as many public records as possible
It’s less likely that scammers will find your information if they can’t get it. The AARP suggests you should also consider replacing landline phones with cell phones, where scammers are least likely to call.
5. Remove your parents’ address in opt-out lists
You can do so with the help of the Direct Marketing Association. That way, when unsolicited snail mail arrives, they’ll know this is more than likely a scammer. That mail, by the way, should be reported to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
6. Check credit reports
You can check your parents' (and yours) at AnnualCreditReport.com to make sure that fake accounts haven’t been opened in their name.
7. Call the AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center
The toll-free phone number is (800) 646-2283. National studies show that 1 in 10 elderly Americans experience some form or abuse in a given year while only 1 in 23 such cases are reported, according to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Elder Justice Initiative.