Source: United States Attorneys General 11
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Today, the Department of Justice reaffirms its commitment to elder justice while joining the world in commemorating World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD).
Elder abuse takes many forms, including financial exploitation (abuse and fraud), caregiver neglect, and physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. Annually, at least 15% of older adults experience some form of elder abuse, affecting 15 to 20 million older Americans. While the staggering number of older Americans affected by elder abuse is stunning, it is the consequences associated with elder abuse that demand our attention. Victims of elder abuse experience devastating financial losses, compromised health, injury, institutionalization, hospitalization, and even early mortality to name a few.
Attorney General Merit Garland stated “The Department has a strong elder justice history that I continue to fully support. We all know an older family member or friend who has been the victim of financial fraud, either domestically or internationally, and we’ve witnessed first-hand how financial loss impacts older adults. Some older adults cut down on their prescription medications harming their health or they are unable to pay their rent and may have to move into senior subsidized housing, impacting their sense of independence. That is why the Department has devoted significant personnel and resources specifically to combat financial fraud committed against older Americans.”
Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta commented “Our guiding legislation in the elder justice arena is the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (EAPPA). While financial fraud is a high priority for the Department, it is important to recognize that the EAPPA instructs the Department to take a much broader stance to include elder abuse in all its forms, whether occurring in domestic or long-term care settings. Therefore, the Department continues to invest heavily in elder justice by developing tools and training to enable federal, state, and local elder justice professionals to respond vigorously yet compassionately when elder abuse occurs. Older Americans deserve to age with dignity and the Department’s commitment to elder justice contributes to this goal.”
“We will continue our efforts to protect senior citizens along with state and federal agencies who comprise our district’s Elder Justice Task Force,” said W. Stephen Muldrow, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “Consumers are fed up with the constant barrage of scams that maliciously target everyday citizens- especially when the elderly are the victims of rip-offs. Every day, people receive offers that sound just too good to be true; some come through the mail, others by telephone or the Internet. These offers have one objective – to rob you of your belongings. Prevent becoming a victim by saying “No”, ignoring the scammers, and reporting them to the authorities.”
The Department’s Elder Justice Highlights
Across the country, Department personnel and our law enforcement partners are diligently pursuing fraudsters who swindle money from older adults, whether they live with the older adult or on the other side of the globe. When older adults experience victimization, the Department responds with the full force of the federal government. For example, the Transnational Elder Fraud Task Force is a federal-state collaborative body that investigates and prosecutes individuals and organizations engaged in foreign-based fraud schemes that disproportionately affect older Americans. The Money Mule Initiative involves federal, state and local law enforcement agencies specifically identifying and addressing money mule activity to disrupt these fraud schemes that impact older Americans. The National Nursing Home Initiative coordinates and enhances civil and criminal pursuit of nursing homes that provide grossly substandard care to their residents. The Elder Fraud Initiative within the Consumer Protection Branch is the Department’s leader in prosecuting elder fraud crimes, while Elder Justice Coordinators serving in each of the US Attorney’s Offices actively pursue elder fraud in their respective jurisdictions.
Key to the Department’s efforts to prevent and investigate elder fraud are reports from financial institutions collected by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”). Today, FinCEN is releasing an Advisory on Elder Financial Exploitation, highlighting fraud typologies that impact older adults.
For every enforcement action taken, there is one (and often many) older victims whose future is forever altered. To assist older victims in recovering from crime victimization, the Department provides Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding to states for crime victim services programming, with a significant portion of those funds assisting older victims. At the federal level, Victim Specialists serve alongside Elder Justice Coordinators in facilitating services for older victims. The Department enthusiastically promotes collaborations of all types and for the first time released a $3.75 million solicitation to develop statewide elder justice coalitions (June 27, 2022, deadline), through the Office for Victims of Crime, in which elder justice professionals collaborate to collectively identify and address state-level gaps in services to older victims. Importantly, the Department trains elder justice professionals to embrace a victim-centered response when interacting with older victims. For example, funding provided by the Office for Victims of Crime resulted in Responding to Transnational Elder Fraud – A Victim-Centered Approach for Law Enforcement, a training provided by the National White Collar Crime Center. These and other efforts support victim recovery and well-being.
The Department stands at the ready to intervene when fraud and abuse occur, assisting victims and holding offenders accountable. However, the Department recognizes that public awareness is our best defense and therefore extensively invests and engages in public outreach. In addition to enforcement efforts, Elder Justice Coordinators across the country engage in public outreach activities.
There are things we can all do to promote public awareness. Join us this WEAAD in sharing with your friends and family our Community Outreach Flyers containing information on elder abuse and where to report. The former FBI Director Webster warns Americans to be vigilant about elder fraud. Educate yourself about Transnational Elder Fraud Schemes and listen to the voices of older fraud victims in the video, Financial Scams — Deceit and Devastation, so you “know fraud when you see it”. On WEAAD, and throughout the year, we can all work to find solutions to stop elder abuse.
These few examples demonstrate how collectively the Department is daily striving to promote justice and safety for older Americans through enforcement actions, victim services, elder justice training and resources, and public awareness. To learn more about the Department’s elder justice efforts, please visit the Elder Justice website.
To report financial fraud, contact the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833–FRAUD–11 or 833–372–8311 Monday – Friday, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm eastern time. English/Español/Other languages available.
To report elder abuse, contact your local adult protective services agency through the Eldercare Locator or by calling the helpline at 1-800-677-1116 Monday – Friday 9am – 8pm eastern time.