Augusta Report — State officials urge Mainers to report suspected elder abuse
AUGUSTA — Officials at Maine’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation (DPFR) are focusing attention on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day–recognized each June 15 throughout the United States and in other countries, and often referred to as the ‘crime of the 21st century,’ because of its increasing prevalence and devastating impacts.
“The abuse of seniors is among the most under-reported crimes, and its impact can have devastating consequences for its victims,” DPFR Commissioner Anne Head said. “Unfortunately, the perpetrator is often a relative or caregiver, making it more difficult for the senior to come forward. Each of us has a responsibility to report concerns about potential abuse.”
Head noted that financial abuse is among the most common forms of elder abuse, costing its U.S. victims an estimated $2.9 billion a year.
The Commissioner highlighted the Department’s five agencies, all of which are dedicated to educating the public and helping the victims of financial abuse. She pointed out the Downeaster Guide to Elder Financial Protection available through the Department’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection by calling 1-800-332-8529 or at www.Credit.Maine.gov under Publications”
She also highlighted the many resources available through the Bureau of Financial Institution’s online Consumer Library (www.maine.gov/pfr/financialinstitutions).
Maine Securities Administrator Judith Shaw, who serves on the Maine Council on Elder Abuse Prevention, noted the frequency of investment fraud and the importance of reporting suspected cases. “Of special concern, is investment fraud of seniors,” Administrator Shaw said. “Victims can lose their entire life-savings, with little opportunity to recover financial stability.” For investment-related questions or concerns, the Office of Securities within the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation can be reached at 1-877-624-8551 and at www.investors.maine.gov.
Signs that an older adult may be vulnerable to possible abuse or exploitation may include:
— Social isolation and/or recent loss of a spouse or partner
— Recent decline in health or in the ability for self-care
— Lack of familiarity with financial accounts
— Dependence on another to provide everyday care or essential services
— Willingness to listen to telemarketing calls or respond to solicitations from unverified charities or businesses
Red flags of possible victimization include:
— Senior has injuries that are not adequately explained
— Change in appearance or poor hygiene
— Senior is missing checks, account statements or documentation regarding finances
— Running out of money at the end of the month
— Senior appears fearful or depressed
— Senior is accompanied by a caregiver who is overly protective or dominating
A partial listing of state agencies that can assist seniors, caregivers and others who wish to report possible cases of abuse is below.
Maine Office of Aging and Disability Services: www.maine.gov/dhhs/oads 1-800-262-2232 or 207-287-9200
Adult Protective Services: www.maine.gov/dhhs/oads/aging/aps/ Hotline: 1-800-624-8404
Legal Services for the Elderly: www.mainelse.org 1-800-750-5353
Maine Area Agencies on Aging: List of regional agencies with full contact information: www.maine.gov/dhhs/oes/resource/aaa.htm
Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation: (Five Agencies Offering a Wide Range of Assistance to Seniors and Caregivers) www.maine.gov/pfr
Office of Securities: 1-877-624-8551 (Investment Questions or Concerns) www.investors.maine.gov
Bureau of Financial Institutions: 1-800-965-5235 (Banking Questions or Concerns) www.maine.gov/pfr/financialinstitutions
Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection: 1-800-332-8529 (Credit, Foreclosure, General Financial Scam Concerns) www.maine.gov/pfr/consumercredit
Bureau of Insurance: 1-800-300-5000 (Insurance-related Questions or Concerns) www.maine.gov/pfr/insurance
Office of Professional and Occupational Licensing: 207-624-8603 (Questions or Concerns Related to Licensed Professionals) www.maine.gov/pfr/professionallicensing