Those are words that must be earned -- and they were
Welcome to the Silver Standard News
As a central element of the outreach work of the Elder Abuse Reform Now (EARN) Project, it is our goal to bring you the latest news on developments in the fight to end financial elder abuse, as well as a wide range of other information to assist senior citizens and their loved ones. From detailing the progress of legislation aimed at ending the practice of financial elder abuse in each of the 50 states to telling the stories of those who have suffered from the effects of this practice, the Silver Standard News is dedicated to making sure that no senior citizen in this country is denied the right to control the assets and property that are rightfully theirs.
To achieve this goal, we will be working on several different fronts; whether it be unraveling legal terminology for our readers or giving them a way to connect with each other, we will work to improve the lives of America's senior citizens by giving them a voice that reflects their concerns and ensures that they are part of a larger community that has their interests at heart.
We will shine a cold light into the darkness of financial elder abuse and the involuntary guardianship that is the favorite tool of the financial abuser. Scrutinize every state, every city, and every court to make sure the citizens of each state understand precisely where their state, and each legislator, stands on financial elder abuse, and how well existing laws protect their elders and punish the abusers.
We will remind every politician that senior citizens control the largest block of money and the largest block of votes. We will apply our motto, taken from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying." For we will be watching and reporting on the actions of those powerful Americans who, while enjoying the salaries and perks of office provided by the American tax payers, have failed the greatest generation and are now failing their baby boomer children.
In addition, we will give our readers. a look at the human faces behind every aspect of this struggle--not just victims but politicians, legislators, home care administrators, professional guardians, businesses. We will tell the personal stories of the people who have lost their money, homes and dignity due to unscrupulous individuals who are often allowed to act under the cloak of legality. But we will also tell the stories of those who have fought back, who have refused to take the existing state of affairs lying down, and who are winning their battles. We will tell you about those officeholders who are, and have been, their champions. Our aim is to empower our readers, to make them aware that they do not have to simply accept the way things are. Though they may be past the age of lying down on courthouse steps or participating in noisy demonstrations, we will encourage them to put their voice, their votes and their money to good use on the elder abuse front. Collectively, especially when joined by those who love them and younger people who don't want this evil to invade their "Golden Years"—they can create a mighty roar.
Though our principle focus is to inform and make elder abuse a sin of the past, we also hope we will amuse and entertain. Tell us what you want, what your concerns are, how you feel we can do a better job to make the Silver Standard News a vital source for all seniors and their adult children. We look forward to hearing from you.
IF YOU ARE A SENIOR CITIZEN,
YOU GET TO PAY YOUR TORMENTERS
WHO WILL BE YOUR GUARDIAN?
By Marcia Southwick
At last, the abuses within the guardianship system are beginning to come to light! The mistreatment of elders whose dignity is stripped by removal of rights is tragic and, in this country, it is happening in epidemic proportion.
Nearly every week now, new articles are appearing about professional guardians who financially abuse the people they are supposed to protect. Both The New Yorker and The New York Times have done excellent articles—we hope other News outlets, especially TV, with 24 hours of air time each day and the myriad talk shows, will follow their lead. This is a subject, and Financial Elder Abuse, which is often achieved through the use of guardianship, must be at the top of the list of subjects that are unquestionably “in the public interest”.
No Adult is more vulnerable than a person held in guardianship. Their entire right to be heard or to fight back has been eradicated by the court. Under current law in many states, a protected person is denied the right to enter into a contract with another person or business, leaving them unable to engage a lawyer to help them seek protection. With a “court-crony” guardian appointed to act "in your best interest," rather than a lawyer of your own choosing by your side, aren't you a sitting duck if something goes wrong? The answer is a resounding YES. What if the guardian assigned to you is a person whose only interest is in exploiting those under his or her control?
The public is beginning to see how dangerous this system of protection can be. Leaving innocent people vulnerable to abuse is inexcusable. What if your guardian isn't a cruel greedy person, just lazy or not very bright? The potential is always there for exploitation of an elder's estate simply by lack of oversight.
No one is looking over the shoulders of these "professionals" who the courts put in control of people’s assets and life altering decisions. Families frequently walk into this situation unintentionally by going to court, thinking that they'll get help for their elder loved one during family conflict. But once the door closes behind a guardianship proceeding, anything can happen, leaving lives broken and scattered.
The public really has no understanding of the nature of these proceedings--they can, and frequently do, happen without witnesses or testimony—except the testimony of a lawyer who stands to make money if the guardianship is put in place. The guardians charge ridiculous fees ($100 to open the mail) and spend like there is no tomorrow. The elder's assets can be easily depleted by professionals without accountability, a problem that has turned this cottage industry into a shameful money grab. In New Mexico, researchers are just beginning to go through court records to figure out just how many guardianships there really are in that state. There are no systematic, central records. Can you imagine? Guardians and conservators are let loose with people's money and entire lives without having a degree in finance or any special training in investments or healthcare. In fact, in many states, according to the Center for State Courts, there are no statutes that require real training, and only 13 states require criminal background checks. See http://www.eldersandcourts.org/Guardianship/Qualifications-of-Guardianships.aspx
Frequently the judge will not insist that a guardian account for every penny of the ward’s money spent. The guardians just keeps spending and charging and spending and charging.
Theoretically (and something like this actually happened to someone I know) you (the ward) might be a PhD who needs a little help, yet you could end up under the thumb of a college dropout with only the assurnce that he or she isn't a convicted felon to protect you. (How would they know if the courts don't perform criminal background checks?) My friend wasn't allowed to look at his own bank statements, even though he was in the business of finance, and, in two years, the guardianship fees and expenses added up to approximately $2 million. Think about it—that's $2,700 a day! What about the qualifications of those who are handling this money? They were less qualified than he. Instead of being restricted to his house with aides watching his every move and monitoring anyone who visited, he could have been living at the Ritz with room service and fresh sheets every day! The absurdity of this situation—and it exists in many of these guardianship cases.
Here is one of many cases that breaks my heart. Every so often, I post a video of New Yorker Dorothy Wilson, in her 80s, trapped by her guardian in a nursing home. The post has gone viral, with over 60,000 views and hundreds of comments expressing sympathy. She looks directly into the camera and describes her plight as she becomes more and more upset. At the end, she is weeping and begging to go home. Why should an elderly person be removed from her own home by a court professional and thrown into a nursing home she hates? Dorothy wasn't allowed to leave the facility to see her family. Instead, she was forced to eat Thanksgiving in the dining room, nearly empty because nursing home residents who are not wards of a guardian are perfectly free to spend as much time as they wish to spend with friends and family. Elders in guardianship, by contrast, are often isolated and restricted from all but very limited access to family. Even a Power of Attorney without a guardian can cause a person to lose much of their independence (see note) Dorothy died within three months of forced placement by the guardian.
Dorothy ended up in guardianship due to a family conflict. Her daughter Diane, describes the shock of finding out that a professional guardian has complete and final control over every aspect of her mother's life. "On August 22, 2011, the guardian, Mary Giordano, along with a caseworker in Plainview, NY, went to my mother’s house and told her they were taking her to the hospital for a problem she had with her recent surgery. That is the only reason she willingly got in the car. Instead, they took her to Meadowbrook Care Nursing Home in Freeport, a sub-standard nursing home with substantiated reports of abuse, and registered her there as a resident. This location isolated Mom from her family, friends,and healthcare providers." So many seniors don’t know the guardian and the court has prohibited family and friends from visiting. So, they sit all alone in a strange place, their life slipping by, and wondering why their family has abandoned them.
Listen to Dorothy Wilson’s pleas for help at the end of this video and you will weep to see what it is like to be under a guardianship with no control over your life. She feels as if she's in prison without having committed a crime. (In another video, she says that precisely). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhOWppokCrQ
If Dorothy isn't an example of someone who has been abused by this system, no one is. Something needs to be done for people in this situation, and it needs to be done now! 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day and every one of them has a target on their back—With a lifetime of hard-earned savings and insurance to plunder, they have exactly what these for-profit professionals want: they only have to ensnare them in the benevolent net of “just wanting to help" or " just wanting to do what's in their best interest". If you are a baby boomer, be aware that you too can easily become a far lesser version of the person you are at this moment—a person with rights to come and go freely, a person entitled to spend your own money as you wish, and a person with the power to live where you want and see who you want.
Educate your children about what family conflict could do to you and their future. Judges have a way of saying, "I don't go out looking for people to put into guardianship. The cases come to ME." They've got a point—so, for now, the only REAL remedy for Boomers is to stay out of court if at all possible.
The Changing Face of Joan
By Joan Hunt
The thing I miss the most about being a younger person is supple skin. The face that looks back at me in the mirror has all the same features, but the skin doesn’t seem to fit around them quite as nicely as it used to. There is a little excess around the chin and wrinkles around the eyes that look like they don’t exactly know what to do with themselves.
Men often handle this problem by growing a mustache and a beard. Women are stuck with plastic surgery, injections, or extraordinary makeup. Being averse to the physical and financial pain inflicted by the first two choices, I had to find a makeup regimen that could keep me from cringing when I look in the mirror.
Now here’s the conundrum. As a woman ages, it takes more makeup to make her look good, but at the same time any amount of makeup is more obvious on more mature skin. What to do? Well, fortunately my eyesight isn’t as good as it once was, and for a while it worked to just not look too closely at my face in the mirror. But it was getting harder to put what makeup I did wear on my face because I couldn’t see what I was doing. So, I bought a magnifying mirror. Big mistake!
I immediately called my youngest daughter, who is a makeup artist, and begged for help. If she could make a normal person look like the Frankenstein monster, might not the reverse be true? She laughed at me and fit me into her schedule for the following week.
Hillary does a lot of weddings, and she shared that one of the biggest challenges she has is working with the mother of the bride. First, they are emotional because their daughter has chosen a life partner that isn’t her. Second is the rite of passage. Mom’s role now includes her in the older generation, and most of us have a little trouble being relegated to the back seat. And beyond that, most women in this age group haven’t changed their “look” or their makeup regimen for over a decade.
They end up being very grateful for my daughter, because she has targeted mature skin as one of her specialties. And she works with them until they are comfortable with their new look.
“So, why have you let your own mother walk around looking like a stegosaurus all these years?” I ask her. Apparently, she has been giving me hints and tips all along, but I wasn’t taking them seriously. Now I am.
Just a few quick tips to share what I have learned. Moisturizer is essential, both at night and under makeup during the day. Let it soak in before applying makeup. Next is the foundation primer, which prepares the skin for the makeup. Liquid is best, applied with an egg (a little egg-shaped sponge that retails for about $20). I am still unsure how often to wash this little gem, but I think it should be dry during application.
Foundation makeup needs to be the exact right shade, and it is worth spending a little more on this because it makes all the difference. Then liquid blush, not too much, blended on the top of cheekbones with the egg, followed by a highlighter just above that and leading around the outside of the eyes to make them pop.
My eyebrows have become thin and curly. An interesting challenge. We draw little lines along the shape of the brow, blend the foundation into them, and then blend with a brush. A little liquid eyeliner, then two applications of mascara to pump up the three eyelashes I have on each eye. Fake ones would be better, but I don’t have the patience. Lip liner, followed by gloss on the bows and on the under lip to plump them out. Spray entire face with a setting spray. And voila!
Sounds like I would look like Tammy Faye Bakker by now, remember her? But applied subtly and by the right hands, this is transformational. The idea is that it takes more to look like less. But yes, there is a downside. It cost me hundreds of dollars to acquire the high-end makeup items it requires, and in my inexperienced hands I need to start around 9 a.m. to look good by noon.
I will continue working on the techniques, and eventually I am sure it will become second nature. In the meantime, I am grateful to have a daughter who possesses this great information and talent. And on the days that I don’t have time to enhance my natural look, I remember what my grandmother told me when she started to get wrinkles and a sagging jawline.
“Smile,” she said. “It takes ten years off your face. And people will always be happy to see you.”
Is That Really What You Voted For?
From the Editor's Desk
In most states, if a son, a daughter, or a caretaker:
that’s a crime, and the perpetrator(s) may be criminally charged, tried, and convicted of elder abuse.
that’s considered “care.”
Guardians currently have the power to isolate the very people whose lives they are supposed to be caring for and protecting. They can do this without the knowledge of the court and without having to justify their actions. In fact, isolation provides an effective and commonly used weapon to wield against any family member who complains about a guardian or the guardian’s decisions.
When a professional or private guardian abuses a person under his or her control, defining it as “protection,” that guardian is immune or quasi-immune from prosecution.
Much to their credit, every member of both the Rhode Island Senate and House of Representatives voted yea to the NASGA~Falk Coalition bill criminalizing wrongful isolation and expanding the definition of “caretaker” to include court-appointed guardians and conservators as well as attorney-in-fact. This was an absolutely huge step forward in the protection of Rhode Island’s current and future senior population, which is the 11th highest in the country at 16.8 % of their total population.
The bill then went to the desk of Governor Gina M. Raimondo, who after some tweeting in her ear by some of her favored “special interest” birdies, chose to veto the bill.
Those birdies were:
You might call them and ask why their special interests are more important than the safety of Rhode Island’s senior citizens. If they tell you the law would have discouraged people from becoming guardians, tell them that is rubbish—tough laws do not change the decision-making of honest people, they just make the bad apples go somewhere else to wreak their evil doings.
So, if you are a Rhode Islander who is unfortunate enough to find yourself in a position where one of your parents or a loved one under the control of a court-appointed guardian or attorney-in-fact is being denied the emotional support and companionship of those they love, or if it should happen to you personally, remember:
YOU ELECTED HER ----------FOR A SECOND TERM!
Rule # 1 For Many Professional Guardians
If they're too much work—Drug'em
By Romona Paden
The training manual for the education of a professional guardian states that it is the guardian’s responsibility to find their own clients (wards). The need for financing to support the professional guardianship business makes a target of every elderly American with anything of value. Jacqueline Scott ended up right in the center of one of those bull’s-eyes.
Many professional guardians have far too many wards to attend to. Frequently, the wards are located in areas many miles from each other, and the administration of drugs allows the guardians to simply warehouse these elderly victims. Most nonprofessional guardians are loving, caring individuals. The same can be said for many professional guardians. However, some of the worst and most cruel elder abusers are professional guardians. What Kathy Dunn witnessed happening to her elderly mother Jacqueline amounted to chemical restraint—the use of pharmaceuticals to restrict a patient’s freedom of movement or to sedate a patient.
In the last years of her life, Jacqueline spoke very few words. Confined to a windowless room in a nursing home facility, the once independent and vital woman found herself trapped in a pharmacological stupor. Measuring a petite 5’2” and weighing only 82 pounds on entering the facility, Scott’s caregivers put her on a daily, steady cocktail of Xanax and Lexapro punctuated with months-long dosing of various forms of Ambien as well as Zyprexa and Temazepam. She regularly sat totally unconscious in her straight-backed chair.
She was deficient in both D-3 and B-12, and no effort was made to include food high in these vitamins in Scott’s meals, nor were nutritional supplements provided. Her tiny frame diminished to a mere 4’9” and just a hair over 70 pounds by the time she died.
This brutal nearly four-year ordeal arose from an unrequested, unneeded, and unwanted guardianship, says her daughter. Scott’s guardian hyped the mild dementia of her charge in order to justify the move into a nursing home facility. Her next step was to develop a source of funds to cover her guardianship fees and pay her lawyer. As is often the case, this was handily dealt with by selling Scott’s mortgage-free home.
“My mother was held against her will in a nursing home that was a two-hour round trip from me,” says Dunn of the period from late October 2010 until her mother’s death in August 2015.
“Chemical restraint is inadvisable for elderly patients outside of a psychiatric ward,” says Alethea Fleming, a naturopathic doctor focused on gerontology, from her Vital Aging Clinic in Anacortes, Washington. While Fleming doesn’t offer comment directly on patients who are not in her care, she keenly acknowledges the pervasiveness of an overmedicated senior population.
“Older patients tend to really get the shaft,” says Fleming.
According to AgingCare.com, “While nursing home regulations have come a long way, the past practice of chemical sedation continues to tarnish the industry’s reputation and factors into family discussions re: long-term health care.”
In the case of Harvey Whitten, a veteran who acted as a medic during the Korean War, the spiral into drug-induced confusion began with a stroke he suffered in late summer of 2010 and a diagnosis of vascular dementia when he was 80 years old. The situation initially beamed a silver lining as Whitten moved from his home in California to live with his lifelong friend Robert Sprau in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. By early 2011, however, the bright side quickly began to tarnish.
Through court hearings, a Montgomery County judge appointed guardianship responsibilities to a local attorney. Although the judge also named Sprau, Whitten’s longtime friend and new roommate, and Whitten’s adored niece, Cosmas Skaife, as co-guardians, Sprau became ill and died in the fall of 2012, and the legal apparatchik systematically minimized Skaife’s authority in overseeing her uncle’s care. With this, Whitten’s best interest, no longer in the hands of a person who loved him, quickly fell by the wayside.
Skaife lobbied for the opportunity to bring her Uncle Harvey to live in a facility near her home in Madison, Wisconsin. At every turn, her efforts were undercut by a legal system that often seemed to exist solely to serve institutional interests over those of the individual and family.
While leaving him without his glasses, his hearing aid, or his dentures, the guardian, having control over Whitten’s money and assets, charged for guitar music and singing lessons conducted by a friend of the guardian at a cost of $125 per hour as well as so-called pet therapy (though he’d never owned a pet).
Despite a monthly income of more than $13,000, the guardian contended additional costs associated with Whitten’s care made the cash flow insufficient. To cover his care, according to Skaife’s documentation on the matter, the guardian accessed his more than $4 million in savings.
Besides attacking his financial health, Whitten’s guardians likewise demonstrated disregard for his physical health. He was chemically restrained by a daily dose of 5 milligrams of Haldol, an antipsychotic drug used to treat mental and mood disorders like schizophrenia and acute psychosis.
“That’s huge,” says Panayiotis Tsitouras, an MD and associate professor at the University of Oklahoma. “No, that’s unacceptable.”
Speaking in a general sense, Tsitouras says the common dosage of Haldol for elderly patients who “experience real problems with anxiety, sleep, or pain” ranges from .5 milligrams to 1 milligram. In terms of the overprescription of medicines for the elderly, Tsitouras says, “Hopefully society is becoming more sensitive to those issues.”
Whitten died in April 2016.
Every day of the year, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65, and this will continue for years. Contrary to claims of many, tough laws governing and punishing guardians’ behavior will not discourage good people from becoming guardians, but what those laws will do is discourage the bad apples. In addition, families must make long-term health care plans well in advance of old age.
One factor that can connect directly to the heart of the polypharmacy issue is the many seniors who have spent years on pharmaceuticals without any modifications in dosing. Considering that the liver, kidneys, and other organs of elimination become more sluggish with age, the problem becomes even more pronounced among the senior population. What’s more, patients aged 80-plus “don’t ask questions,” Fleming says. The combination of all these factors means that potential damage due to overmedication reaches exponential proportions.
You might consider, before jumping right into heavy drugs, first trying a naturopathic physician (ND) whose work centers on a holistic approach to patient care. While trained to carry out many of the same approaches as allopathic practitioners and licensed to prescribe traditional pharmaceuticals, NDs manage chronic disease and acute conditions through herbal medicine, nutrition, homeopathy, and therapeutic physical techniques. Alethea Fleming says that her practice focuses on the foundations of health “taking a decidedly conservative approach in prescribing medication” and “treating the whole person using the least forceful intervention first.”
“Dose low and go slow,” serves as her mantra.
“I listen to them,” Fleming says. Carving out meaningful discussions with patients allows her to garner the kind of depth and breadth of information necessary to guide patient healthcare to optimize health and to treat illness. Vital in this is gaining the full picture on pharmaceuticals. It not unheard of, for instance, to come across a patient in retirement years who’s still taking high blood pressure meds prescribed decades prior while working a high-stress job.
Another critical element in establishing patient background includes determining situational circumstances around family proximity. This is an important topic as “far-flung families” mean some patients lack a strong support network.
Still another element playing into the overmedication of seniors, says Fleming, centers on the lack of continuity in care. Seniors using a piecemeal approach to pharmacies and providers also plays into the problem.
Unfortunately, the medical community counts only around 6,000 naturopaths in its ranks across the United States. Just over half the states and territories in the nation (23 of them) extend licensing to NDs—others must be encouraged to do so, and Medicare must begin covering these visits. As a starting point, it is less expensive and a safer place to begin.
The government must do a better job of monitoring abusive drug administration.
Somewhat surprisingly, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recorded only 74 complaints around chemical restraint among individuals living in long-term care facilities, according to Kelly Mack, a public affairs specialist with the Administration for Community Living that operates within HHS. That number, reported for 2016, comes through states’ long-term care ombudsman programs, which are designed to resolve problems around individuals’ health, safety, welfare, and rights. All one needs to see is the mountain of letters coming into the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse to know this number is way off.
“Another complaint code for medications-administration, organization,” Mack writes in an email, “has a larger amount of complaints but is not pertaining just to inappropriate drugging, so we have nothing more detailed.”
In an interview with PBS, Maristela Garcia, a physician and director of the geriatric medication unit at UCLA Medical Center, summed up the result of guardians and nursing homes using medication as a tool to control, doctors overprescribing to placate the complaints of their aging patients, and seniors self-medicating: “This is America’s other drug problem—polypharmacy, and it’s huge!”
The picture on the left target is Lynn Sayler’s mother Retta, on the Right Marie Claire Conners’ mother Grace. Both stories can be seen in the documentary The Unforgivable Truth at http://vimeo.com/user5231742/uft.
Mercedes Kibbee, whose story is also told in The Unforgivable Truth, was so addicted to the excessive drugs being pumped into her that, when her daughter realized what was happening and changed her doctor, Mercedes went through a very painful drug withdrawal that lasted for more than a week.
By Bill Wine
Three married women are forced into an instant-oatmeal life of disorganized crime to pay back the debts that their underworldly husbands "owed" when they were killed during a botched armed robbery.
Talk about "Me Too."
That's the premise of "Widows," a dark, cynical thriller that interweaves a high-stakes heist with a sociopolitical drama set in contemporary Chicago.
It comes from director Steve McQueen, the Oscar-winning director of "12 Years a Slave," and stars Viola Davis, the Best Supporting Actress Oscar-winner for "Fences."
Davis plays a teachers' union executive married to Liam Neeson. What does he do for a living? Well, let's put it this way: he keeps a "crime journal," which turns out to be a major plot point.
Anyway, she's one of the three recently widowed wives whose lives are threatened when local thugs demand that all three make good on money that their now-deceased, crime-committing spouses made disappear—and it's in the millions.
Thus, these otherwise ordinary female citizens must transform themselves into master thieves virtually overnight.
Which they do with suspicious ease, one of the problematic flaws in an otherwise impressive film with lots to recommend it.
The screenplay, co-written by McQueen and Gillian Flynn ("Gone Girl"), is based on a 1983 British TV miniseries by Lynda La Plante, and is as interested in its various themes—including sexism, racism, political corruption, urban conflict, the relationship between money and power, police brutality, female empowerment, and interracial interaction—as it is in the heist itself.
McQueen is obviously working on a large canvas—a bit too large, it turns out—in this amalgam of genre.
If that suggests that McQueen may have been overly ambitious in putting too much food for thought on his plate, well, that's not far from the truth. As is the reminder that this project was originally conceived as a multiple-episodes series with a lot more material than can be shoehorned into a stand-alone feature film.
But it's not easy to develop a rooting interest in—or an emotional connection to—characters in a movie this crowded and brisk.
Thus the extensive use of backstory flashbacks, which provide additional context but do not help us to engage with the characters.
Despite those flashbacks, and perhaps inevitably, several subplots get trotted out ever so briefly, only to be glossed over or abandoned as the narrative proceeds.
As for the gunplay violence and car-chase action—most of which is both appropriate and even necessary—it is well-crafted, energetic, and jolting, but perhaps a shade too frequently dwelled upon in a movie that is otherwise smart and thoughtful. There are even a couple gasp-inducing twists along the way.
Davis, first among equals in a gifted ensemble that also includes Michelle Rodriguez, Colin Farrell, Elizabeth Debicki, Robert Duvall, Jon Bernthal, and Carrie Coon, is more than up to the task, juggling loving, grieving, training, leading, fighting, stealing, longing, and struggling to survive as if there's nothing to it.
In the final analysis of "Widows," the splendid Viola Davis is, not for the first time, better than the vehicle she's driving.
You Gotta Have Spunk
By Mary West
Could you fall victim to a financial scam that targets the elderly? Sadly, ruthless phone scammers across the country have an arsenal of schemes to steal from older adults, and the amount taken can involve large sums of money. According to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2017, Americans reported 2.7 million cases of financial scams that resulted in fraud losses of $905 million. The evil plots, which can affect low-income as well as high-income seniors, are so prevalent that they have been called “the crime of the 21st century.”
Unfortunately, many cases end tragically with the elderly losing their life savings. Informing oneself concerning scammers and how they work can help protect you from a similar fate. As the adage goes, “forewarned is forearmed.”
In January, a spunky 75-year-old Tennessee woman who was the target of a senior phone scam plot turned the tables on a man who phoned her and said she was the winner of a sweepstakes prize.
Court records show the joke was on him and our feisty 75-year-old ended up exposing a nationwide scam.
This sort of ruse begins when scammers acquire telephone numbers of seniors—something easily facilitated by use of the internet. The scammer then stalks their prey by phoning the targets and endeavoring to con them into revealing their bank information or turn over cash for some nonexistent cause. In this particular scam, the perpetrator used the twist of sending the victim a safe, supposedly filled with money, which could be accessed with a key provided at a later date.
In this case, the Tennessee woman received a call from a man bearing the glad tidings that she was the winner of a sweepstakes. Several phone calls followed, where the scammer pretended to have a personal interest in the woman to gain her trust, then co-conspirator Betty Lou Repka Myers, of Canyon Lake, Texas, shipped the woman a locked safe. At that point, the scammer called his victim and asked her to write two checks that totaled $21,000 and send them to Ms. Myers. He said this would cover the taxes due on her winnings—she complied.
On March 5, Ms. Myers deposited one of the checks into her bank account. One day later, she appeared in Tennessee knocking on the victim’s door and claiming an additional $22,500 was needed. According to a warrant written by Knox County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jeff Monroe, Meyers gave instructions to the victim to go to two different SunTrust branch locations to remove money from her account which she was to then give to Myers. With Myers driving, the woman did as she was asked and withdrew the money.
At this point, Myers made a request that aroused the woman’s suspicion. She asked the woman for her cell phone, saying her boss wanted it. Instead of acquiescing to Myers’ demand, the woman called authorities. Knox County deputies retrieved the woman’s money in Myers’s purse, along with one of the checks she had sent to the Texas address. Myers was arrested.
THE ELDERLY ARE COMMON TARGETS OF SCAMMERS BECAUSE THEY TEND TO BE TRUSTING…..
They grew up in a different era, when people often didn’t lock their doors, and a verbal promise was considered a binding commitment. While their trusting ways are a lovely part of their character, these traits can put them at risk.
Moreover, seniors hail from a time when strangers helped each other, so they are likely to be sympathetic to a hard-luck story and want to help—even at great personal expense. Compounding the problem is the fact that many elderly people are isolated, have amassed considerable savings, and aren’t tech savvy. All of this makes them irresistible to merciless scammers.
How to Protect Yourself
Scammers hook their victims by offering fake prizes, services, or products. The bait they use comes in an array of forms such as sham investment opportunities, charitable causes, and foreign lotteries, in addition to extended car warranties and “free” vacation packages. Another scam involves “free” trial offers that fail to mention that subscribers will be billed every month until they cancel.
The main thing to remember is to never give out any personal information over the phone, including your social security number, credit card number, or baNk account number. If a caller asks you to “confirm” any information, refuse to do so because it is a trick.
One of the most recent scams involves the caller asking the question, “Can you hear me?” Most unsuspecting people will say “yes” and the scammer will record this reply and use it to authorize fraudulent charges. If you hear this question when you answer a call, hang up immediately. And remember—the IRS never calls people.
Be alert for other phrases that are red flags. If you hear one of the following, say “No thank you” and hang up:
Get caller ID, and if you don’t recognize the number of an incoming call, don’t answer it. Scammers are now able to use technology to change the area code and first three digits of the telephone number that appears on caller ID. This will make it look like a local call and increases the probability that the person called will answer. Some of the scammers have even discovered how to use the full name and number of a legitimate business, household, or financial institution with whom the target does business. When these calls are answered, the victim’s number is put on a list called a “sucker list,” which results in more scam calls.
Rather than using your telephone providers answering service, invest $30 or $40 in an answering machine where you can hear the message being left in real time. Pick up only when you hear it is someone you wish to speak to. You will find that most scammers and telephone solicitation callers hang up when an answering machine is on the other end of their call.
Scammers are often convincing and manipulative. They can sound empathetic and are willing to say anything to get what they want—YOUR MONEY. Alternatively, they can play upon your sympathies in an attempt to get your “help.” Therefore, as a general rule, don’t talk to a stranger on the phone. Though not as efficient as one would hope, you can lower the number of unwanted calls by putting your phone number on The National Do Not Call Registry, at 1-888-382-1222. It can help to get an unlisted phone number, but they are not always as unlisted as we are told.
Discovering the Stans
By Elizabeth Sinclair
The five former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, in Central Asia, are often known by their shorter name: the ‘Stans.’ The five countries are a mixture of mountainous terrain, grassy steppes, and desert, each with its own unique culture and history. The Stans share a common religious legacy—Islam; the entire region is famous for its tombs and mosques. They also share many common food traditions based around roast meat, cheese, and flatbreads, foods that originate with the native nomadic peoples of the region. While some of the Stans have formed democracies, several remain firmly in the grip of Soviet-style rule; however, all the countries are rapidly opening up to tourism.
Scenic high country, such as spectacular Son-Kol or Kol-Suu Lakes, or the sweeping vistas of the Alay Valley, characterize Kyrgyzstan and are accessible in summer months via horseback treks and yurt-to-yurt trekking or riding trips.
Cholpon-Ata is a former Soviet resort town on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul. In the city’s heyday, thousands of Soviet tourists arrived in summer in mass tour groups to frequent its health spas. These days, tourists still come from the other Stans, but foreign visitors are few in number.
You can stroll along the lake’s edge, with stunning views of the nearby Tian Shan mountain range. Visit the Ruh Ordo Cultural Center for a comprehensive overview of the country’s cultural history, including displays on prominent people in Kyrgyzstan’s history. Near the town center, you will find an historical museum that has many displays in English and gives a good overview of the country from pre-history to modern day.
You can book a two-day tour around Lake Issyk-Kul. Kyrgyzstan was once home to a horse-riding herding nomadic people. Try the national drink—fermented mare’s milk—and sleep in a yurt under the stars. A short distance outside the city lies Chudo Voda, a natural hot springs, where you can rent a changing room and towel and soak in the heated mineral pools. There is an open-air site just north of the city with over 2,000 pre-historic petroglyphs, dating from 800 BCE.
WHERE TO STAY:
The reasonably priced Hotel Tri Korony is located on Lake Issyk-Kul, with rose gardens and walkways leading along the lake. The hotel offers free wifi, parking, and breakfast, as well as a sauna and swimming pool.
WHERE TO EAT:
This desert country lies between Iran, Afghanistan, and the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan is famous for cotton textiles, hand-woven red Turkmen carpets, and metalworking. The ancient city of Merv nearby (now in ruins) was once one of the greatest Islamic cities in the world and a crucial stopping point on the Silk Road.
Ashgabat is the capital of Turkmenistan and a major stop on the Trans-Caspian Railway, also known as the Central Asian Railway, which snakes through Central Asia along the same route that camel caravans once took.
Check out the Altyn Asyr bazaar, the largest market in the country, where you can buy traditional Turkmen carpets as well as local handicrafts, silk, jewelry, and even camels.
The city houses the Turkmen Fine Arts Museum and the Turkmen Carpet Museum, which contains an extensive collection of hand-woven carpets. There is also the Ashgabat National Museum of History, with artifacts dating back to the pre-Islamic Parthian and Persian kingdoms, which once controlled the entire region. Ashgabat is also known for its theatres, including the Pushkin State Russian Drama Theatre, the Mollanepes Turkmen Drama Theater, and the Turkmen State Puppet Theater, which has a repertoire of 40 plays, as well as the Turkmen State Circus.
The city is also famous for its historic churches and mosques in addition to its parks and open spaces, including a Botanical Gardens. Inspiration Alley is a joint art-park complex that is a favorite local hangout.
WHERE TO STAY:
Ashgabat is known for having higher-end hotels at reasonable prices. Two popular ones are the 4.5 star Oguzkent Hotel (formerly a Sofitel) next to the Presidential Palace and central to many of the city’s top spots. The hotel features a nice Turkish restaurant. The other is the 4.5 star Yyldyz Hotel, with large, opulent rooms, located next to a Jack Niklaus-designed golf course.
WHERE TO EAT:
For something different, try the Russian Market, also called Gulistan, to get a taste of local Turkmen cuisine. The market lies right in the heart of the city and has small bakeries and shops selling laghman—a hearty dish of pulled noodles with lamb and vegetables—as well as savory pies and stuffed breads and a host of other regional food.
Kazakhstan gets its name from the word ‘Kazakh’ (from the ancient Turkic ‘qaz’) that means ‘to wander,’ so Kazakhstan literally means ‘land of wanderers.’
Fittingly, nomadic tribes have inhabited the region since the Stone Age, and anthropologists believe that the horse may have first been domesticated in the country’s grasslands.
Kazakhstan is famous for dramatic mountain, lake, and desert landscapes. The Kazakh Steppes—large sandy grasslands—take up almost a third of the country.
Scenic destinations include Turgen Gorge, a popular tourist destination about an hour from Almaty with waterfalls, pine forests, hot springs, and lakes, and Big Almaty Lake with spectacular alpine views. Tamgaly-Tas is a popular rock-climbing site, full of ancient petroglyphs, and can be easily reached as a day trip from Almaty. Annual rock-climbing contests are held here, as well as international competitions for emergency rescuers that attract participants from all over the world.
Almaty is considered the cultural capital of the country. The city is part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network for music. Almaty has a Museum of Folk Music, a National Opera House, and a Museum of the Kazakh Academic Dramatic Theater. The city is also known for its art galleries and art museums as well as its quirkier museums, including the Republican Museum of the Book and the Museum of Broken Hearts. The city hosts an annual Apple Festival in September, complete with apple tastings, art and craft markets, and concerts of traditional Kazakh music.
The city is full of parks and open spaces, including the popular Kok-Tobe Park, located on a mountain slope above the city.
WHERE TO STAY:
D’Rami is a centrally located budget boutique hotel with just eight rooms, a ten-minute walk from the National Opera House. The local neighborhood has a wide range of cafes and restaurants.
WHERE TO EAT:
Zheruyik is a popular restaurant that serves traditional Kazakh dishes, which are usually based on lamb, noodles, dumplings, and vegetables. Another choice for local cuisine is Kazakh Restaurant Gakku, which offers traditional nomadic foods, such as sheep head, horse meat, and fermented camel or horse milk.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
The first US Attorney General
to show a sincere concern for America’s Senior Citizens
Thank You Mr. Sessions
We are sorry to see you go
How we wish that were still the case Mr. Wallace.
Nowadays, Lawyers, Bankers, Financial Advisors, Investment Bankers, Brokers and very expensive paid Guardians are some of the worst and most cruel of the Financial Elder Abusers.
Look for our article on this subject in our next issue and, in the meantime, watch the account of what happened to Mercedes Kibbee and her wonderful foundation to help severely at-risk children at 30 minutes and 35 seconds into the documentary The Unforgivable Truth, produced by The Silver Standard. It will break your heart.
On the EARN website under “State Info,” There is a drop-down list where you can find all the legal information about Financial Elder Abuse and involuntary Guardianship for your state.
As we researched each state, a question arose—though the public chooses those who will represent their interests and safety and, through one manner of taxation or another, pay the salaries of those representatives as well as Attorney Generals, Judges, and District Attorneys, why is there so little concern shown for the senior citizens in so many states? It is particularly perplexing given the fact that those very senior citizens are, more often than not, paying the largest share of the taxes and casting the largest share of the votes.
Over the next year, we will compare all 50 states, each month we will carry forward the state that was the best in the previous month’s comparisons, to see...
WHO IS DOING THEIR JOB.
|Financial Exploitation of Elders||Comparison of State laws protecting Elders against Financial Exploitation|
|Does the State define an elder?||Yes. Person 60 years or older||No. Disabled Adult 18 yrs/older||No. Disabled Adult 18 yrs/older||No . Dependent Adult 18 yrs/older.|
|State laws protect elders against financial exploitation?||Yes||No. An Adult.||Yes. An Aged person||Yes. Against adults|
|Are there penalties for financial exploitation of elders?||Yes. Divided into Classes of Felony||Yes. For Adults.||Yes||Yes|
|Is there a duty to report financial exploitation of elders||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Is there a penalty for failure to report?||No||No||Yes||No|
|Does the State law define financial exploitation?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Does the State's Elder law define the following:|
|b) Undue Influence||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|Definition of Adult||Adult means person 60 years or older||Adult means a person aged 18 years or older with disabilities. (disabled)||Adult means any individual 18 years of age or older with disabilities (disabled)||Adult: means any person 18 years of age who is a legally emancipated minor|
|Dependent Adult: means an adult who has a physical or mental condition that substantially impairs the adult's ability to adequately provide for the adult's daily needs.|
|How does the State define|
|a) Financial Exploitation||Financial Exploitation means the use of deception, intimidation, undue influence, force, or threat of force to obtain or exert unauthorized control over an elderly person's property with the intent to deprive the elderly person of his or her property or the breach of a fiduciary duty to an elderly person by the person's guardian, conservator, or agent under a power of attorney which results in an unauthorized appropriation, sale, or transfer of the elderly person's property||Financial Exploitation means obtaining or using another person's resources, including but not limited to funds, assets, or property, by deception, intimidation, or similar means, with the intent to deprive the person of those resources.||Financial Exploitation means the illegal or improper use or management of the funds, assets, or property of a person who is aged or an adult with a disability, or the use of power of attorney or guardianship of a person who is aged or an adult with a disability for one's own profit or advantage.||Financial exploitation means: the use of deception, intimidation, undue influence, force or other unlawful means to obtain control over the property of a dependent adult for another's profit or advantage. Though they use the words "deception" and "undue influence" Maine never provides a definition of what these words would mean in a Maine court of law. This is a huge gift to any lawyer representing an abuser--As these terms are not defined, the lack of clarity gives him lots of cracks to slither through.|
|b) Deception||Deception occurs when a person knowingly: a) Creates or confirms a false impression b) Fails to correct a false impression the defendant created or confirmed; c) Fails to correct a false impression when the defendant is under a duty to do so; d) Prevents another from acquiring information pertinent to the disposition of the property involved; e). Sells or otherwise transfers or encumbers property, fails to disclose a lien, adverse claim, or other legal impediment to the enjoyment of the property.||Deception means but is not limited to: (a) Creating or reinforcing a false impression, including a false impression as to law, value, intention, or other state of mind; (b) Preventing another from acquiring information that would affect his or her judgment of a transaction; or (c) Failing to correct a false impression that the deceiver previously created or reinforced, or that the deceiver knows to be influencing another to whom the person stands in a fiduciary or confidential relationship||None|
|c) Intimidation||Intimidation is a threat of physical or emotional harm to an elderly person, or the communication to an elderly person that he or she will be deprived of food and nutrition, shelter, property, prescribed medication, or medical care or treatment||None|
|d) Undue Influence||Undue Influence means domination, coercion, manipulation, or any other act exercised by another person to the extent that an elderly person is prevented from exercising free judgment and choice.||Undue influence means the misuse of real or apparent authority or the use of manipulation by a person in a trusting, confidential or fiduciary relationship with a person who is a dependent adult or an incapacitated adult.|
Letters to the Editor
As we have just begun, we have not yet received any letters. I certainly hope that you will write to us: tell us about your experience with Financial Elder Abuse or Involuntary Guardianship. We will also be looking for people to interview for our monthly video and lovely photographs for our cover.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving demonstrated how much change can be accomplished when we all speak as one and insist on change. Now, it is time for Americans to again speak as one—create a roar so loud we cannot be ignored--no longer tolerating the abuse of our senior citizens.
Join The EARN Project. The membership is free. It will provide you with notifications when your Senate or House have a Bill, concerning Financial Elder Abuse and Involuntary Guardianship, coming up. It will provide a contact to all pertinent officials, through the EARN Project for you to make sure your concerns are heard and addressed. It also gives you access to information on all the laws in your state and an emergency contact list for your state which, at this time, are open to all on our website but, will soon be for members only.
Earn has picked up the baton, won't you please join the chorus —without you there is no roar and no change.
Looking forward to seeing what you send us
Sharon de Lobo
please send your letters through the EARN Contact Form or directly to firstname.lastname@example.org