CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey emphasized the importance of protecting seniors from abuse and fraud.
The Attorney General’s elder abuse litigation and prevention unit strives to educate the public and tackle all forms of abuse among the elderly population. Anyone in need of its expertise should contact the Attorney General’s senior services and elder abuse hotline at 304-558-1155 or email HelpForSeniors@wvago.gov.
“Scammers and others who take advantage of vulnerable seniors are always waiting to swindle targets who aren’t careful,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation can happen in the background, so it’s important for everyone to be aware of the warning signs and contact our office if something doesn’t seem right. With continued vigilance, we can save our grandparents, neighbors and loved ones.”
Elder abuse comes in many forms. Physical violence, financial theft, nursing home neglect and medical negligence are just a few serious issues that senior citizens may face.
Approximately 10 percent of persons age 60 and older have experienced some form of abuse or exploitation, and it is estimated that as many as 5 million elderly adults suffer each year, according to national research.
Still, researchers believe many instances go unreported. It is of particular concern in West Virginia where U.S. Census estimates show persons 65 years and older account for approximately 20 percent of the state’s population.
Loved ones should watch for these red flags of financial abuse:
— Needs are not met by caregivers who have access to a senior’s finances.
— Unexplained changes made in wills, power of attorney or bank accounts.
— Suspicious changes to a senior’s financial condition.
— Unusual wiring of money or purchase of multiple gift cards.
— Presence of a stranger who begins a new relationship and offers to manage a senior’s finances.
— Signatures on checks that do not match the senior’s handwriting.
The Attorney General’s elder abuse litigation and prevention unit includes a dedicated team of seasoned civil prosecutors to hold accountable anyone who intentionally causes harm to senior citizens.
Assistant attorneys general – both ones assigned to consumer protection and to represent other state agencies – work with those client agencies and county prosecutors to refer matters as appropriate. This includes instances of criminal conduct, guardianship and conservatorship, as well as acts involving nursing homes and hospitals.
Senior citizens and loved ones who prefer traditional mail can reach the elder abuse litigation and prevention unit at P.O. Box 1789, Charleston, WV 25326.
The unit’s scam alert database is also key in raising awareness of potential scams. Senior citizens and their loved ones can subscribe to the email alerts at http://bit.ly/SeniorScamAlert.