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AARP South Dakota Hosts Town Hall for Elder Abuse Awareness Day

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The FBI reports almost 50,000 people age 60 and older lost $342.5 million in 2017 to internet fraud and scams.(sabinevanerp/Pixabay)
The FBI reports almost 50,000 people age 60 and older lost $342.5 million in 2017 to internet fraud and scams.(sabinevanerp/Pixabay)
 By Roz Brown - Producer, Contact
June 13, 2018

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - The number of Americans hitting retirement age is on the rise and, with it, an increase in elder abuse and exploitation is predicted.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is this Friday. Studies show that about 16 percent of people age 60 and older are subjected to psychological, physical or financial abuse. It's estimated that older adults lose $3 billion annually to financial exploitation, but only about one in 14 cases is reported.

Erik Nelson, director of advocacy for AARP South Dakota, said many seniors who are taken advantage of react with hurt or disbelief and hesitate to tell someone.

"There is definitely a sense of shame, if you will, if someone does succumb to a fraud or a scam," he said, "but you know, they're not the first and unfortunately, they're not the last, and that's why education is so important."

AARP South Dakota will host a call-in town hall about the topic beginning at 3:30 p.m. Thursday. To participate, look online at vekeo.com.

Although seniors report that their awareness of possible scams - especially those on the internet, has risen, Nelson warned that scammers also get more creative. This time of year, he said, seasonal scammers show up in neighborhoods, offering to resurface a driveway or do home-improvement projects for a price too good to be true.

"There's always the phone calls from the fraudsters pretending to be the grandson that's in jail in Mexico: 'You need to send money right away.' Or there's door-to-door sales people scamming you out of your money," said Nelson.

In 2015, South Dakota initiated an Elder Abuse Task Force that led to creation of a state office to investigate and prosecute those found guilty of preying on older people. Nelson said AARP also holds regular workshops to help seniors and their friends and families protect themselves.

"There are definitely warning signs that you should look for, as far as having the power of attorney to look over financial situations, to get regular updates for your loved one," he said.

A recent U.S. Department of Justice investigation culminated in charges against more than 200 defendants for elder-fraud schemes.

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