In President Shirley Lashment’s absence, President Elect Cynthia Strassman opened. Fran Murphy shared the “God Bless the World Prayer”. Chuck Seven led the pledge.
Cynthia said a meeting about Bingo night is taking place on Tuesday, September 12th at 10:00 a.m. at Peet’s Coffee in CDM plaza at the corner of PCH and Avocado. She advised the club is seeking a member to assume Jerry Nininger’s leadership of Youth of the Year. Dr. Bob Wood encouraged us to purchase football books before the start of football season. Ed Romeo expressed his disappointment that Jerry left town without fanfare. Ken DuFour tried but was unsuccessful in organizing a celebration for Jerry. Mike Gertner sought football pool submissions.
Mitch Mitchell introduced Mitra Bustamonte and Catherine Becerine, social workers with Orange County Social Services’ Adult Protective Services (APS). In collaboration with the police and fire departments , OASIS, and others, they serve seniors (i.e., 60 and older) in Newport Beach who are disabled or victimized by elder abuse.
When Mitra or Catherine are notified about a senior, they visit the senior for evaluation. They wear badges identifying them as social workers, and if the elder is doubtful, they provide their office number so the elder can verify they are registered social workers with APS. Mitra and Catherine offer seniors services and help where needed. They do not, however, have the authority to remove elders from their residences or to compel them to receive help. They become aware of their clients from family, neighbors, policemen, firemen, OASIS, doctors, and others.
Elder abuse includes self-neglect and abuse by others including physical, psychological, or emotional, and isolation, abandonment, and financial. Seniors neglecting themselves, because of dementia or other issues, might display poor hygiene, untreated medical conditions, or malnutrition. They also can become unfamiliar with their environment, for example, enter a neighboring home thinking it is their own.
Catherine has witnessed family members move in with seniors waiting for the seniors to pass away in order to inherit their estates. It’s not uncommon for these bad actors to neglect their seniors, worse yet physically or mentally abuse them, or appropriate their property without permission. In some cases, Catherine and Mitra play good cop/bad cop, with Mitra undeterred in calling out improper conduct. To stop this behavior, they approach other family members for help. Sometimes this involves seeking a restraining order to stop the neglect or abuse. They also suggest services to help the senior when the abuser leaves.
Catherine and Mitra encouraged us to be mindful of seniors displaying signs of abuse and to call APS at 800-451-5155 if we suspect, observe, or otherwise know a senior is being abused. The elder will never know who called, as Mitra and Catherine are required to keep this confidential.
Financial abuse is the most common type of elder abuse, particularly in Newport Beach. Elder financial abuse is defined as taking, appropriating, or retaining real or personal property of an elder with intent to defraud. Common methods include obtaining money by undue influence or misrepresentation, telemarketing, and mail fraud.
Mitra encountered an 87-year-old who had $100,000 stolen from his bank account. A person on the east coast opened an account in the senior’s name and slowly transferred relatively small sums from the old account to the new one. The victim did not check his bank activity often and his bank did not catch the fraudulent transfers. He pursued a fraud claim with the bank which as of now has been denied. The bank is the only option for recovery as the identity of the scammer is unknown.
Personal identifying information is often taken via mobile phones or computers. Mitra cautioned us to be wary of random “pop ups” on computers and phones and to never click them. The “pop ups” could be spyware, and once clicked, the perpetrators watch keystrokes to obtain passwords and other information. Likewise fraudulent links appear in emails that seem legitimate as they often contain logos from common businesses. Never click on these links unless certain the email and link are legitimate. Finally, it is advisable to scan computers for viruses and spyware and to install anti-virus software.
Financial schemes also take place via the phone. Mitra advised it is best not to answer your home or mobile phone unless you know the caller. A common tactic is for a swindler to call pretending to be a child, grandchild, or relative in need of money. Sometimes a courier is sent to the victim’s home to collect the cash. Aside from swindling money, the fraudster learns where the victim lives and what he/she looks like. He can also stake out the house, or worse yet, threaten the victim’s physical safety and steal more than cash.
Financial scams are also perpetrated by family members. Mitra and Catherine have seen younger family members receive permission to use an elder’s credit card for an item, and once aware of the credit card number, make further, unauthorized purchases. In these situations, they advise the senior on disconnecting with the abusive family member and how to establish boundaries going forward.
Leo Fracalosy asked whether the authorities are successful in recovering cash and other stolen assets. If the crime crosses state lines, it can be reported to the FBI. The FBI, however, often does not follow up. Also, the scams can be wide reaching (national and even worldwide) and the money moves fast and is difficult to track.
Dr. Bob marks his scam emails as spam yet spam emails continue. He asked how to stop them. Mitra explained because the scammers can continually change email addresses, it’s impossible to do.