A.G. Schneiderman Launches “Smart Seniors,” A Statewide Elder Abuse Prevention Program

Program Will Help Seniors Identify Potential Scams Before They Happen

Schneiderman: We Must Empower Seniors With Information So They Can Protect Themselves From Being Victimized By Scams And Abuse

WHITE PLAINS — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the launch of “Smart Seniors,” a statewide elder abuse prevention program designed to help seniors identify potential scams and abuses before they happen, and provide them with information they can use to stay safe and healthy in their daily lives. The new “Smart Seniors” initiative will help protect those who are often targeted for financial exploitation, identity theft, telemarketing and sweepstakes fraud, home improvement rip-offs, Internet and online scams, and physical abuse. The announcement was made as part of Assemblywoman Sandy Galef’s “Senior Forum 2012.”

“To prevent senior citizens from becoming victims of fraud and abuse, we must empower them with information they can use to protect themselves,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office is committed to protecting all New Yorkers, especially those who are targeted for fraud and abuse. The ‘Smart Seniors’ program is another tool that we can deploy to protect vulnerable New Yorkers and to help seniors avoid becoming victims in the first place.”

Elder abuse is a serious and growing problem. The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse, updated in 2011, found that the most common form of abuse was financial exploitation. The study found that the annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is estimated to be at least $2.9 billion, a 12 percent increase from the $2.6 billion estimated in 2008. Another recent report titled "Under the Radar: New York State Elder Prevalence Abuse Study," found that for every reported case of abuse, another 23-24 cases go unreported. This underscores the critical importance of education, outreach and fraud prevention. "Smart Seniors" will help seniors protect their physical safety and their financial assets - - and avoid the devastating emotional harm that victims often feel.

As part of the program, presenters across the state will visit senior centers, assisted living facilities, libraries, houses of worship, senior clubs and other locations to teach seniors about the most common scams, the techniques perpetrators commonly use, and who to alert if they identify a scam or are victimized. Seniors will also be informed of how to protect their physical safety at home and in other common day-to-day situations.                                                                                        

Senior groups are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's office to book a "Smart Seniors" presentation by calling 1-800-771-7755.

The broad themes covered in "Smart Seniors" are:

  • STAYING SAFE: Seniors will get advice on how to be smart consumers, learn how to recognize potential scams before they happen so they won’t become a victim in the first place, and get safety tips for their day-to-day lives.
  • TAKING CONTROL: Seniors will be informed how to ensure that their health care wishes are followed if they cannot make decisions for themselves, and how to designate a person to make non-health care decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated.
  • FIGHTING BACK: Seniors will be informed about the different ways to make sure that scammers and those who take advantage of someone’s illness or frailty are held accountable.

Specific topics that are covered include: how to avoid identity theft; telemarketers and telephone safety; sweepstakes; fake check scams; other common scams like the "grandparent scam"; tips for charitable giving; hiring a home improvement contractor; home safety; powers of attorney (do's and don'ts); health care proxies and living wills; physical and emotional abuse; neglect; and the patient protection work of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. In conjunction with the launch of the “Smart Seniors” outreach program, the Attorney General’s office is issuing a new and updated version of its “Smart Seniors” brochure.

“I am so pleased that seniors have a strong advocate in Attorney General Schneiderman, and that he chose to debut this new statewide program at my Senior Forum. We must encourage more people to stand up against fraud and abuse and to take control over their health and safety. I hope those who have been victims will be empowered by this new program to come forward and fight back against their abusers,” said Assemblywoman Sandy Galef.

“I applaud Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman for dedicating the time, effort and resources to protect older adults from scams, exploitation and abuse.  We need to shine a light on the hidden problem of elder abuse and mistreatment, and the Attorney General’s new project will go a long way in exposing and prosecuting those who scam older adults,” said Ann Marie Cook, President & CEO, Lifespan of Greater Rochester and Co-Chair of the NYS Coalition on Elder Abuse. “The Attorney General is sending the right message - that abuse and exploitation of vulnerable New Yorkers will no longer go unpunished or unprosecuted. We thank him for his dedication to protecting older adults in this State."

“Elder abuse and financial exploitation of older adults are epidemics. These criminal acts reduce the quality and length of life for seniors.  'Smart Seniors' will empower older adults, enhance public awareness, and send a clear message to criminals who prey on this vulnerable population,” said Daniel Reingold, President & CEO of The Hebrew Home at Riverdale. “The Hebrew Home at Riverdale and its Weinberg Center on Elder Abuse Prevention applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for his proactive and creative efforts to prevent abuse and punish perpetrators.”

Since taking office, Attorney General Schneiderman has been committed to fighting elder abuse and protecting seniors.

  • In June of this year, Attorney General Schneiderman announced 50 settlement agreements with home improvement contractors statewide after an investigation revealed that these contractors were taking advantage of consumers by failing to provide written contracts, failing to complete the work that consumers had paid for, and committing other violations. Many of the victims were seniors.
  • In March 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman issued a warning to New Yorkers after regional offices throughout the state reported a rise in the so-called "grandparent scam," in which con artists call seniors at home and pretend to be their grandchild, and then dupe the unsuspecting seniors into sending them money needed for some "emergency." Victims of these phone scams have lost more than $441,000 over the last several months.
  • In 2011 and into 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman obtained more than 30 convictions of persons engaged in abuse and neglect of patients; nine of those convictions were as a result of undercover operations in nursing homes, and an additional four defendants were sentenced in such matters on earlier guilty pleas.
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