Across the country, billions of dollars are lost annually to elder financial exploitation, according to Vera House, Inc. in Syracuse.

New York State Police are currently investigating a recent case of alleged elder financial exploitation. 

Police say a Canastota couple is being charged with grand larceny. They’re accused of scamming an East Syracuse man in his 80’s and getting money from him over the course of a year.

Investigators say Kenneth Bennett, 58, was working as a handyman for the victim before they became friends. He then allegedly told the victim he was in trouble with the mafia and owed people a lot of money.

Police say Michelle Beck, 47, would call the victim pretending to be from the mafia and telling the victim they would hurt him, if he didn’t give them money.

“Cases like this happen all the time in our community,” said Jenny Ackley, a project coordinator for abuse in later life at Vera House. “It can be millions of dollars and we have had cases like that. We’ve had cases that are $100,000 and people lose their life-savings, lose their homes or it could be $1,000 but that is their life-savings and everything they have is now gone.”

Ackley says 90 percent of these cases are at the hands of a family member or someone else who becomes close to the victim.

“Somebody who does things for that person and all of sudden they become reliant on them,” Ackley said. “They trust them. Once that trust has been built that’s when the abuse can start to happen.”

In Central New York, she says for every one case called in — 34 go unreported.

Vera House works on these cases daily alongside other agencies such as the Office for Aging, the NYS Attorney General’s Office, Adult Protective Services and the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office.

“If people are concerned about somebody they know, it never hurts to make a phone call here,” Ackley said. “Or get on the phone with that individual that you’re concerned about and call together, help them through that process because there’s all kinds of abuse.”

Warning signs of elder financial exploitation:
-Sudden use of an ATM by the victim
-Large amounts of money withdrawn
-More checks made out to “cash”
-Someone new accompanying the victim to the bank

Resources:
-Vera House Inc. 24-Hour Crisis & Support Line: (315) 468-3260
-Adult Protective Services: (315) 435-2815
-Office for Aging: (315) 435-2362
-NYS Attorney General’s Office: (315) 448-4800