GARDINER, Maine — To commemorate the sixth annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Wednesday, June 15, Maine’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation joined Gov. Paul R. LePage and other agencies in encouraging seniors, as well as their relatives, friends and caregivers, to report suspected cases of financial exploitation or other forms of abuse. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is an annual event designed to call attention to the scourge of elder abuse.
“State agencies provide important resources and protection to seniors,” LePage said after issuing a proclamation to recognize Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Maine . “Elder Abuse Awareness Day is a time to be mindful of the harm and exploitation that afflicts too many seniors. It’s also an opportunity to highlight available resources and to urge seniors and others to come forward if they suspect abuse.”
Anne Head, commissioner of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, and Maine Securities Administrator Judith Shaw used the occasion to highlight a new law that will provide for enhanced penalties for violations of the Maine Uniform Securities Act involving investors 65 years of age or older. The Office of Securities and other agencies also released a list of fraud-prevention resources for seniors.
“Senior citizens have long been the target of unscrupulous investment scams and other forms of financial exploitation,” the two officials said in a prepared statement. “That’s why our agency recommended a change to the state securities statute to allow for the doubling of disciplinary penalties and civil fines for scam artists who would prey on the elderly, a change that received bipartisan support in the Legislature and was supported by both the Maine investment community and senior advocates.”
LePage, Head and Shaw said studies show that all forms of elder abuse, including financial exploitation, are underreported and expected to increase due to the increasing number of seniors in our society. Part of the reason for underreporting, they said, is that the perpetrator of the abuse is often a relative or caregiver of the victim.
According to a 2010 national Elder Fraud Survey commissioned by the non-profit Investor Protection Trust, 7.3 million older Americans – one out of every five citizens over the age of 65 – already have been victimized by a financial swindle, and many more are at risk of becoming victims.
The Department of Professional and Financial Regulation highlighted important “red flags” of possible investment fraud or financial exploitation:
· Senior was asked to invest in a “start-up” or unregistered company.
· Senior has unopened investment account statements or is missing account statements or other documentation of an investment.
· Senior is missing checks from checking account or has made out checks for the purchase of an investment directly to the salesperson or adviser.
· Senior is unable to get in touch with the salesperson or adviser or has difficulty remembering the terms of the investment.
· Senior was asked to sign blank paperwork or was pressured to give an adviser discretionary authority over their accounts.
Seniors, family members and senior providers are encouraged to contact the Office of Securities toll free at 1-877-624-8551 for copies of senior fraud prevention resources or for direct assistance to check an investment or adviser.
More information about Elder Abuse Awareness Day and crimes against seniors is available from the National Center on Elder Abuse online at www.ncea.aoa.gov. Additionally, Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services provides Elder Abuse information online at http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/oes/.
Partial list of elder abuse prevention contacts:
To report elder abuse, neglect or exploitation, call the Department of Health and Human Services 24-hour Adult Protective Services hot line at 1-800-624-8404
To report the financial exploitation of seniors, contact Maine’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.
Office of Securities: 1-877-624-8551
Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection: 1-800-332-8529
Bureau of Insurance: 1-800-300-5000
Bureau of Financial Institutions: 1-800-965-5235
To seek consumer protection and mediation services from Maine’s Office of Attorney General, call 1-800-436-2131 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maine Long Term Care Ombudsman Program: 1-800-499-0229 or www.maineombudsman.org