Thursday, November 19, 2009

Okay. What in the world was I carrying on about?

Okay. I was vague in my last post about what I am doing. I wanted permission to discuss it in detail and that wasn't forthcoming. There's a very good reason for that and it is one I respect. But I can discuss it in a general sense.

Most of the people who read here are young enough that this probably doesn't have much reality. I'm technically middle-aged (closer to "old" than I like to admit) so it didn't have much reality to me, either. Still, we all have older relatives, older friends and older neighbors or acquaintances.

I am involved in an investigation of elder abuse. Someone I have known for a long time has been targeted by transient criminals who, if allowed, would do harm to her. Since I trained with a private investigator in Tucson and learned those skills, I decided to put them to use now. (Just goes to show that everything we learn along the way comes to good use eventually.) Basically I gather information, compile it, follow up on it and give it to a licensed PI who adds it to information he already has and passes it along to Law Enforcement if that's appropriate. So.. generally, that's what I'm doing.

Older people who don't have a strong support system in their lives are often vulnerable to these transient criminals. The more information Law Enforcement has, the better chance they have of catching and prosecuting them.

Transient criminals move into an area, identify their targets, commit their crimes and move on. They are sometimes called "travelers". They have multiple names and social security numbers which makes them very difficult to track.

An example of the crimes they commit is financial elder abuse. They get close to the targeted old person, often treat them very well in the beginning, giving them plenty of attention and essentially ingratiate themselves. When the time is right, they close in, take advantage of the older person's weakness, perhaps confusion, memory issues and other maladies of old age. They become caretakers.

Often the older person builds a trust relationship which is soon abused. The supposed caretaker will get the older person to give him or her financial control. He might get her to sign a joint tenancy agreement. When she dies, he gets the house. At the very minimum, the "caretaker" will empty out her bank accounts. Another method is to gain the old person's sympathy with elaborate stories of illness or a relative's need. The old person will hand over large sums of money.

A sign of this happening is when an older friend, relative or neighbor begins to isolate. They no longer respond to phone calls or take visitors. This is not the old person's choice. They are being intentionally isolated by the caretaker.

Lonely old men are vulnerable targets. A younger woman will begin to court him, fawn over him and ultimately wipe him out financially. She will tell him how much she loves him and ask for a BMW. She cooks him meals and generally pampers him until he believes she really loves him.

Being old is difficult in this culture where old people are viewed as disposable. This is really the larger issue.

So what can we do? We can pay attention to older relatives, friends, acquaintances and neighbors. We can notice who is hanging around and make sure their motives are pure. If we do have to provide a caretaker, make sure he or she is accredited and bonded.

These criminals often put ads out on Craigslist, offering their services as a caretaker. Never, ever, respond to those ads! If you need a caretaker, go to a reputable source. Have a background check done and make sure a Trusted Someone is in charge of the money.

Educate yourself and those in your community about these crimes. One way is to have a speaker come from ElderAngels to give a talk at your community organization, school, church or other gathering place.

When the case is closed that I am involved in, I'll be able to talk about exactly what I am doing and what I've discovered. At first, my intention was to protect only the older person I know. The more work I've done with this, the more I realize it's an issue I care a great deal about. I've decided to continue on, volunteering my services in a more general sense.



AngelP said...


Thank you for caring. I really didn't know this existed very often. It makes me very sad. The world we live in can be very dark.

In my state, NC, there is a mother that sold her 5 year old daughter for a drug debt. The little one was subsequently killed.

No wonder many of us have problems with depression.

Then it's wonderful to come in contact with loving, caring, open people like you!

Cecilio Morales said...

As you know, I'm in your age bracket. I, too, often worry whether I have passed the top of the proverbial hill. Fortunately, that is still a matter about which reasonable people will disagree.

Our elders are taken advantage of if they lack a regular network of family and friends who make a point of being present in their lives. Granted, many folks lose that network through (touching wood!) crankiness.

We can try to cultivate attract qualities to avoid that ourselves -- or we can take careful stock of friends and family and hang around the good ones.

I like what you are doing.

justme said...

this is SO needed. it is a crime that happens way too often and unfortunately, get way less press than other crimes. it's a shame...thank you for doing something about it!

S said...

You've done a great educational service with this post, Chani.

secret agent woman said...

It's heart-breakingly common. As a psychologist, I'm required to report suspected cases just as with child abuse.

Anvilcloud said...

Since we all hope to live that long, it's good to have people like you on your toes.

Leann said...

I don't think anything makes me more angry than someone taking advantage of the vulnerable. They can be elderly, child, pet, or otherwise. Kudos to you for caring enough to step in, get involved, and follow it through to the end. So many people are content to turn a blind eye feeling they don't have the right to step in. Yes you do!!

As you know, the whole communal family thing is near and dear to my heart and it sickens me to see our elderly tossed aside when the younger generation or society itself feels their usefulness has been fulfilled.

You go girl!!

Blessings ~ Leann

Unknown said...

That is a tough job you are taking on!
I understand because once my mom was vulnerable and i moved her close to close relatives for many, many reasons and I keep tabs on her finances because even the banks screw up (sometimes even worse).

molly said...

Cecilieaux's comment struck home!My f-i-l is working hard to drive everyone away who might have his best interests at heart. How to deal with older family when they are mean and insulting? Turn the other cheek?
That said, I do think there should be some way of protecting the elderly from these predators.....

meno said...

It's great that you are doing this. You are making a difference.

Angela said...


It's so wonderful that you're doing this! I know the elderly are taken advantage of, neglected, and stolen from on a regular basis. It makes me so mad!! Thanks goodness for you and that pi work.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

This was a valuable and always timely reminder that we need to be more mindful of the needs of others, and also of our own behavior so we are not left to the mercy of predators when we are old and helpless.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Bless you for this. What an important work you are doing.

People who would do crimes like this are just despicable.

Anonymous said...

Good for you for bringing this up. I share your sentiments. I think as I get incrasingly older (irritating how that happens) I might take up packing heat.

LittlePea said...

What you're doing is wonderful. We should be taking care and watching out for our senior citizens. I had heard about this sort of thing on 60minutes or some show like that a while back ago and I had no idea it was so rampant.

(Speaking of getting scammed, my word verification is "triqu")