Elder abuse concerns heightened amid COVID-19 isolation

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — As we continue to self-quarantine, many of us may be going a little stir crazy — but part of our community is especially vulnerable and some people will try to take advantage of that.

“Abuse, scammers, they prey on the isolation and loneliness of older adults,” said Lori DiCaprio-Lee, the ID Theft and Outreach Coordinator at Vera House.

Time away from family and friends is what DiCaprio-Lee says can make our older adults even more vulnerable to financial abuse and other scams.

“If you’re an older adult and you’re feeling lonely and isolated and you get a phone call and that person is saying, ‘hey I have something that’s going to prevent you from getting coronavirus, you’re already afraid, you might listen to that,'” she said.

Our older adults tend to be more loving and have assets such as jewelry, cars without payments, homes without mortgages, etc. making them a target.

“One of the first abilities that older adults have that starts to decline is the ability to make good financial decisions,” said DiCaprio-Lee. It makes them even more vulnerable.

Here are some tips to prevent being scammed:

  • Don’t give out your social security number
  • If someone is being pushy it’s likely a scam
  • If it’s unsolicited by you it’s likely a scam
  • Put pins on your accounts
  • Shred paper with your personal information
  • Don’t give out your information or social security number

Oftentimes, abuse doesn’t come from a stranger, it comes from someone you know and trust. “When there’s financial exploitation in particular, it’s done by an insider, a family member, a relative, a loved one, a caregiver,” said DiCaprio-Lee.

Vera House — Tips to avoid being scammed

So how can we protect our parents or grandparents when they’re the ones most at risk for COVID-19 and are in a self-quarantine?

DiCaprio-Lee says a big part of it is staying in touch.

“We can text, we can Skype, we can send an old fashioned letter,” she said. “There’s the old fashioned telephone, make a phone call.”

Little things that can make our loved ones feel a lot less alone.

“Social distancing does not equal social isolation,” said DiCaprio-Lee.

When people do fall victim to a scam they may be hesitant to come forward, out of fear of feeling embarrassed or ashamed, which is why prevention and communication are important steps.

If you or someone you love may be a victim to abuse of any kind you can always call the 24-hour Vera House Crisis Hot Line at 315-468-3260.

If you are financially scammed or experience tax fraud, DiCaprio-Lee has some tips:

  • Place fraud alerts on your cards
  • Close all compromised accounts
  • Tell anyone who may be impacted (banks, doctors offices, etc)
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

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For more local news, follow Nicole Sommavilla on Twitter @NeSommavilla.

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