When it comes to elder abuse and exploitation, reporting even suspicions can save someone a world of difficulty.

When it comes to elder abuse and exploitation, reporting even suspicions can save someone a world of difficulty.
Natasha Hollis of Financial Institution Consulting LLC spoke at the McPherson Chamber of Commerce Monday afternoon about elder abuse and exploitation. The practice of conning elderly people out of money or other goods is growing with the population of elderly people in need of care.
“People are living longer, healthier lives. We need to be aware of those demographic and population shifts,” Hollis said. “If you're a scammer, those are lucrative statistics.”
Between 1950 and 2000, the number of seniors in the population has increased 87 percent. By 2030, the number of people age 65 or older in the United States will triple, to exceed 70 million.
These numbers are attractive to scammers hoping to prey on people who grew up in a more trusting time. In addition to elderly people, young people or those with physical or mental disabilities are also targeted.
Hollis said so-called “granny scams” are also popular because the risk of getting caught is low. She said many people don't report when they become victims of a scam, which means the scammer goes unpunished.
“People don't say they got scammed, don't call a lawyer or police, because it's embarrassing,” she said. “Sometimes they tell themselves the scammers didn't mean it. In the Midwest, we trust more than people on the coasts.”
Hollis said caregivers and others should be aware of signs that person may have fallen victim to a scam. These include unusual financial transactions, unexplained address changes on bank accounts or financial statements, and sudden changes in financial situations.
“This could indicate that they're giving their money away to someone else, or that their accounts have been compromised,” Hollis said.
Failure to pay bills or attend to medical needs can also be a sign that someone has encountered sudden financial problems.
Hollis said sometimes the abuser can be a caregiver. If a caregiver shows excessive interest in an elder's finances or assets, doesn't allow the account holder to speak for himself or herself, or displays threatening behavior, the caregiver may be trying to take financial advantage of the person whose care with which they are charged.
Hollis said anyone who suspects someone has fallen victim to a scam should report it to authorities, such as local police. They can also report their suspicions to the Federal Trade Commission, Social Security Administration and Department of Justice.
Kansas has elder abuse hotlines, and cases of abuse can be reported to Kansas Adult Protective Services. Many of these places accept phone and online reports. The Kansas Department for Children and Families Adult Protective Services handles elder abuse in a domestic environment to report abuse, neglect or exploitation call 1-800-922-5330. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services handles elder abuse within an institution such as long-term care homes, the number to report an instance of abuse is 1-800-842-0078.
“Some people don't want to tattle, but we have a moral obligation to help people being abused,” Hollis said. “We have to take this stance because there are people in the world who will take advantage of others.”