Op-Ed: Help Stop Elder Abuse
The following op-ed is written by LaDonna Koebel, executive director for the Attorney General’s Office of Senior Protection and Mediation
During World Elder Abuse Awareness Month, Attorney General Cameron’s Medicaid Fraud Unit and Office of Senior Protection are joining forces to raise awareness about how to protect seniors from abuse in all its forms. Whether you are the family member of an aging loved one or a senior yourself, our offices stand ready to help you and those you love avoid neglect, exploitation, and physical or financial abuse.
Our Medicaid Fraud Unit is committed to investigating, and when necessary, prosecuting those who seek to abuse, neglect, or exploit elderly patients in nursing homes, Medicaid healthcare facilities, or personal care homes. We believe every patient deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and we do not tolerate abuse or neglect from those charged with their care. If you suspect patient or resident abuse, neglect, or exploitation, report the incident to our office by completing our online form at ag.ky.gov/MedicaidFraud or call our hotline at 1-877-228-7384.
In addition to assisting vulnerable adults, our office also endeavors to protect Kentucky’s seniors from the financial abuse and devastation often associated with scams and fraud. Because of their financial stability and nest egg savings, seniors make attractive targets for scammers and fraudsters.
Far too many Kentucky seniors have suffered financial loss due to scams. In 2020 alone, Kentucky seniors reported nearly $3 million in losses to our office, and sadly, these statistics may represent a fraction of actual losses. Data from AARP Kentucky shows $15.8 million in fraud losses by seniors during that same year.
Recently, scammers have been targeting Kentucky seniors with a common scam known as “the grandparent scam.” In this scheme, scammers claim to be with your loved one, often a grandchild, who is in trouble and urgently needs money. To avoid this scam, watch out for callers who ask you to keep quiet about the incident and not share information with your family or friends. Remember - scammers do their research. Just because a caller knows your name and the identities of your loved ones doesn’t mean they are who they say they are.
Scams continue to be on the rise not only for seniors but consumers of all ages. In May 2021, consumers reported nearly $1.8 million in scam losses to our office, a 275 percent increase in reported losses from the same month in 2020. The dollar losses from last month alone are more than the total losses reported to our office in all of 2019.
Our Office of Senior Protection assists victims of fraud and provides information about the common tactics scammers use to carry out their schemes. While there are many types of scams and fraud, consumers of all ages can protect themselves from common scams by following these tips:
- If anyone instructs you to urgently send money, provide credit card information, wire money, or purchase gift cards, it’s a scam!
- Be skeptical of anyone who calls asking for verification of your Social Security or Medicare number or insurance information.
- Regularly monitor your bank and credit card accounts for suspicious activity. Promptly report unauthorized charges to your bank or credit union.
Our best advice: Every unsolicited call, text message, and email should be considered suspect.
If you are contacted by someone you do not know, stop and pause before acting. Contact a trusted friend, and always independently verify information before responding or sending money.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a scam, don’t be afraid to report the incident to our office by completing our online scam complaint form at ag.ky.gov/scams. It is important to act quickly, as we may be able to help you avoid further financial harm.
LaDonna Koebel is the Executive Director for the Attorney General’s Office of Senior Protection and Mediation.