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TDCI Urges Consumers to Learn the Signs of Elder Abuse During Older Americans Month

Only 1 in 14 Cases of Elder Abuse Ever Come To Authorities’ Attention
Thursday, May 07, 2020 | 08:45am

NASHVILLE — In keeping with President Trump’s recognition of May as Older Americans Month, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) urges families and caregivers of older adults to report instances of elder abuse and learn the red flags that might indicate an elder is being preyed upon — either physically or financially.

Older Americans are one of Tennessee’s most valuable resources and among the most vulnerable for abuse and exploitation by predators. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse ever come to the attention of authorities. Elders are often targets for financial fraud and identity theft due in part to the amount of wealth they have accumulated throughout their careers, their tendency to be trusting, and their increasing isolation.

“The hard work, fortitude, and wisdom of Tennessee’s older population helped make the Volunteer State into the place we know and love today,” said TDCI Commissioner Hodgen Mainda. “During Older Americans Month, I remind Tennesseans that we can all play a part in helping protect older Tennesseans by keeping a watchful eye for signs of elder exploitation and promptly reporting possible abuse to appropriate officials.”

Reporting abuse, neglect or exploitation is critical to protecting Tennessee’s most vulnerable population. Tennessee law provides that “any person having reasonable cause to suspect that an adult has suffered abuse, neglect, or exploitation, shall report or cause reports to be made.” If you suspect abuse, neglect or exploitation, please call the Tennessee Department of Human Services Adult Protective Services unit immediately toll-free at 888-277-8366

Who Should I Tell? 

  • If the abuse is happening now, call 9-1-1.
  • If the abuse is physical, call Tennessee Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-356-6767

Warning Signs of Physical Abuse 

Bruising, especially in the torso or head; frequent injuries from accidents; broken eyeglasses or frames; caregiver’s refusal to allow visitors alone with the older person. 

Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse

Isolation of the older person or refusing to allow visits alone with the senior; observed threatening or belittling of the older person by the caregiver.

Warning Signs of Neglect

Unusual weight loss; malnutrition; dehydration; untreated physical problems; unsafe and unsanitary living conditions such as dirt, vermin, soiled clothes and bedding; inappropriate clothing for the weather; desertion or abandonment of the older person in a public place.

Warning Signs of Financial Exploitation

Significant withdrawals from the vulnerable adult’s accounts; sudden changes in their financial circumstances; valuable items or cash missing from their home; increase in junk mail soliciting purchases or payments for sweepstakes money; neglect of the victim, such as no food in the home; and maintenance and repairs of the home are ignored.

Additionally, TDCI’s Securities Division reminds consumers about the Senior Financial Protection & Securities Modernization Act, enacted as Public Chapter No. 424, which aims to safeguard senior adults (age 65 or older), and others at increased risk of diminished capacity or other cognitive impairment, by providing the securities industry with greater tools to help detect and prevent financial exploitation.

TDCI offers the following guidelines to help older adults and their loved ones recognize and avoid potential financial exploitation and fraud:

Senior Investor Tips

  • When a stranger asks for money, proceed with caution. Swindlers will exploit your good manners. If you don’t know them and they ask for money or your personal information, hang up.
  • Before you invest, make sure your representative is properly registered. Check their registration and disclosure at information at BrokerCheck.
  • Beware of salespeople who prey upon your fears. Fear can blind your good judgment. Only invest when you have all the facts and feel comfortable.
  • Don’t let embarrassment prevent you from reporting fraud or abuse, if you’ve been scammed. Every day that you delay reporting fraud or abuse is one more day that the con artist is spending your money and finding new victims.

Identity Theft Prevention Tips

  • Never buy from a stranger who calls or visits unannounced.
  • Shred all paperwork containing identifying information, healthcare information, banking information, or passwords.
  • Monitor bank and credit card statements and your credit report.
  • Use direct deposit for benefit checks to prevent checks from being stolen.
  • Never give your credit card, banking, Social Security number, Medicare, or other personal information over the phone to someone you don’t know, unless you initiated the call.
  • Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake their Caller ID information. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.

If you suspect that you or a loved one might be a victim of securities or insurance fraud, or if you would like to file a complaint or speak with an investigator, contact the Tennessee Securities Division – Financial Services Investigations Unit at (615) 741-5900 or visit our website.