This Thursday, AARP Maryland is joining the global community in observing World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, shining a light on the issue of elder financial abuse. As part of its annual PROTECT Week, AARP Maryland aims to educate the public about the alarming rise in scams targeting older adults while providing resources and support to help prevent financial exploitation.
According to the FBI’s report from last year, a staggering 88,000 individuals aged 60 and above fell victim to scams, resulting in over $3 billion loss. Shockingly, this marked an 84% increase compared to the previous year. Among these victims, 1,700 resided in Maryland, making it clear that the state is not immune to this pervasive problem.
Scammers often employ deceptive tactics through email, taking advantage of people’s vulnerability and emotions. Karen Morgan, an executive council member of AARP Maryland, highlighted the psychological manipulation tactics used by scammers, stating, “Scammers never appeal to your intellect. They want to get you excited, and we call it putting people ‘under the ether.’ So, the idea is to get you excited, panicked, upset, just really something, in some heightened emotional state, so you stop analyzing what’s happening.”
AARP Maryland is taking proactive steps to combat elder financial abuse by organizing a series of in-person and online events throughout the week. One of the initiatives includes free document shredding at six locations across the state, providing individuals with a secure method to dispose of sensitive information. Additional information about the events can be found on AARP Maryland’s website at AARP.org/MD.
In raising awareness, AARP Maryland reminds the public that the perpetrators of financial abuse are not always strangers. Loved ones, caregivers, or friends can also exploit vulnerable older adults. Be vigilant and watch for warning signs, such as individuals requesting access to financial accounts or the sudden appearance of new credit cards and unopened bank statements.
One prevalent scam targeting older adults is “check washing.” This scheme involves scammers using chemicals to erase the ink on a check, altering the amount or payee details. Karen Morgan shed light on this growing concern, saying, “Lately, we’ve heard a lot about check washing, and why that’s an issue for those of us who are older is because we’re more likely to use checks, and we rely on that as a way to do business. That’s become more unreliable these days.” To mitigate the risk of check washing, using gel ink is recommended. The gel ink soaks into the fibers of the check paper, making it harder to remove.
Moreover, AARP Maryland emphasizes the need for increased vigilance among veterans, active-duty military personnel, and their family members. These individuals are often targeted due to their transient nature and the challenges of changing addresses and managing mail. Morgan highlighted the vulnerability of this population, stating, “Because they’re changing addresses, they’re forwarding mail, they’re getting information from maybe unknown sources that are presenting as federal or military.”
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day serves as a reminder of the urgent need to protect older adults from financial exploitation. AARP Maryland’s efforts during PROTECT Week are crucial in empowering individuals with the knowledge and resources necessary to identify and prevent elder financial abuse. By staying informed and remaining vigilant, we can work collectively to safeguard the financial well-being of our older population and create a safer environment for all.