Don’t be silent about elder exploitation

Vince Ryan, Crime Stoppers of Houston Blog

As the number of senior citizens in Harris County continues to grow, new forms of elder abuse and exploitation constantly appear. We must all recognize the ongoing and new schemes and scams that plague persons 65 and older. The term exploitation includes the illegal or improper use or attempted use of an elderly person’s assets or resources.  

Financial exploitation is a very common form of elder abuse. Family members, care givers and other familiar individuals, as well as strangers may all be perpetrators. Because of resources accumulated over a lifetime, including Social Security income, and insurance, elders may easily become targets of greedy relatives, Ponzi scheme artists, and online thieves.  

Many of the elderly are less likely to report exploitation because they are dependent on the perpetuator to provide food, clothing and shelter. In other instances, the elderly are not aware of the exploitation because they may be in a cognitive decline, are dealing with health problems or are coping with the loss of a loved one. If the elderly do realize exploitation has occurred, they may be reluctant to report the crime because they are afraid of retaliation, worried they will lose their independence, be denied legal rights or have a private guardian appointed.  

The Harris County Attorney’s Office represents the Harris County Guardianship program and is all too familiar with many tragic stories. Our Office believes that our elderly population needs to be embraced and protected by our community.  If you learn that an elderly person is being exploited, please say something. Whether you notice changes in their bank account, the disappearance of their personal belongings, forged signature on important documents, long lost relatives moving in, or any other suspicious activity, please call Adult Protective Services at (800) 252-5400.    

Our Office works with the Adult Protective Services, the Sheriff, Constables, and other law enforcement agencies and are available to discuss your concerns. Together we can end the silence associated with elder abuse and exploitation. Additionally, our office has a speaker’s bureau to address relevant topics important to the elderly and to all Harris County residents. Call us today at 713-274-5101.