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Senior Abuse

What is an Endangered Adult? An endangered adult is a person threatened with harm by another person or persons.

Abuse rendered on a senior citizen can include: physical, psychological, neglect or financial exploitation. Abuse can also include self-neglect, a person that does not take care of himself properly. Although physical abuse may be readily detectable by bruises, scars, broken bones, or cuts, the other forms of abuse may be harder to detect and harder to cure.

A typical victim of abuse is female, 70 years of age or older, and physically or mentally impaired. She usually lives with and is physically and emotionally dependent upon the abuser. Most studies indicate the abuser to be the daughter or son of the victim.

However, any senior citizen could be the victim of continued abuse by another person.

Senior Citizen: Take Good Care of Yourself

That seems like an obvious statement, but every day many seniors can't do that. They are victims of senior abuse. Senior abuse, one of the last topics to come of the closet, is a fact of life. Every day somewhere a senior citizen is being abused -- verbally, emotionally, or physically.

Seniors may be told repeatedly by a son or daughter, "Why don't you just die!" or they may be terrorized by threats, "You're going to get it when we get home. I told you not to do that." They may be physically hurt by relatives or guardians who literally "twist the arms" to sign over checks or sign power of attorney papers. They may be overly medicated in order to be easily controlled.

Why don't seniors report such behavior?


Seniors are literally in fear of being hurt or killed. They also fear abandonment. "If I turn him in, who will take care of me?"


Seniors are ashamed that their children (relatives or guardians) are treating them this way. They often get into self-blame -- "If I had been a better parent, he would not treat me this way."


Seniors love their children and don't want to get them into trouble.

How to spot senior abuse

If the senior is suddenly acting differently -- pay close attention. Some other things to look for:
  • Withdrawn
  • Depressed
  • Overly medicated
  • Unexplained bruises and broken bones
  • Never any money
  • Overly protective child
  • Fearful of child
  • Verbalizes abusive situations
  • Never leaving the home in which they live

Safety For Seniors

Older people own more than half of all financial assets in America. At the same time, seniors are vulnerable. People over the age of 65 comprise 11 percent of the U.S. population but represent roughly 30 percent of scam victims, according to the U.S. Subcommittee on Health and Long Term Care.

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that crooked telemarketers swindle older people out of $1 billion to $5 billion a year.

The disproportionate victimization of older people in connection with consumer fraud is partly attributable to generational and economic factors. Seniors grew up in an era when business was done on a handshake. Seniors are also more likely to be home when the phone rings.

The con artist uses three methods to reach his or her victim:

  • Telemarketing
  • Mail
  • Door-to-door Sales

Prize Mailings

Remember, if you have really won a prize, you'll get it absolutely free, with no strings attached.

  • Millions of brightly colored postcards flood the state telling recipients they have won a prize.
  • Indecipherable small print is often used--especially if the company is giving you information it hopes you won't read.
  • Official looking features are used such as: "Award Claim Number: 866-67-746".
  • Official sounding names are used such as: "Audit Central Bureau Disbursement Center" or National Prize Center".
  • An out-of-state address with a P.O. Box mailing address is the only method you have to reach the company.
  • You are told to place a 1-900 number call to collect your "prize." (Remember, you pay for 1-900 calls.)
  • You are told to call a 1-800 number, and you place the free call only to be told you must pay in order to receive additional information.
  • You are asked to disclose your credit card number to prove your identity.
  • Your prize is awarded with strings attached-service fees, delivery charges, or "taxes" are assessed (if you win a prize you should pay nothing).

Scam Characteristics

Phone Solicitations

  • A computerized voice message tells you, "You have won a prize."
  • You are asked for your credit card number.
  • To "win" you must send money within a short time (usually 24 or 48 hours).
  • An out-of-state company contacts you. Usually the only way you can reach them is through a P.O. mailing address.
  • No strings (process fees, delivery charges, etc.) should be attached to a prize you have truly "won".

Door-to-door Sales
Con artists operating door-to-door target seniors because seniors are likely to be home when the doorbell rings. If you are interested in making a purchase from a door-to-door seller, get everything in writing including price, warranties, and all conditions. Tell the seller you'll check it out and get back to them. Be firm. Don't buy on impulse. You can do business on your own terms. Take the time to investigate both the seller and the offer.

Home Improvement Scams

A common door-to-door scam involves home repair.

  • Workers drive a pick-up truck through a neighborhood in which older people live. They approach people outside their homes.
  • The workers offer to pave your driveway, repair your roof or paint your house with supplies "left over from another job in the neighborhood".
  • They perform shoddy work that is completed very quickly.
  • These workers are usually itinerant sellers with no local connections (they often drive trucks with out-of-state license plates).
  • They demand cash payment.
  • They refuse to provide references or a warranty.
  • The final price you are asked to pay will be much higher than the initial estimate.

Three Day Cooling Off Law

The Three Day Cooling Off Law gives you three business days to cancel a sale made through a home or telephone solicitation when the contract is worth more than $25.

Shopping By Mail

  • If you are unfamiliar with the company, check it out with the Better Business Bureau of the Attorney General's Office in the state where the company is located.
  • Never send cash through the mail.
  • If you receive merchandise which you or a member of your household did not order, you may consider it a gift and not be pressured into returning it or paying for it.

Charitable Giving

Know Where Your Money Goes

  • Many charities sound worthy, with names and goals promising cures for cancer, heart disease, and other worthwhile causes.
  • Most charities are honest and put their charitable dollars to good use. However, Americans lose millions of dollars to fraudulent charitable groups each year.

Guidelines for smart giving include:

  • Don't judge a charity solely on its impressive sounding name.
  • Ask how the charitable purpose will be accomplished.
  • Ask how much of your contribution will pay fund-raising and overhead costs.
  • Ask if the person calling is a professional fund raiser and if so, what amount of your money given will actually go to the charity.
  • Ask whether your contribution is tax deductible.
  • Don't be unduly swayed by emotional appeals.
  • Don't be pressured. Ask for written information. If convinced, send a check later.
  • Contribute by check. Cash donations are impossible to trace and difficult for the charity to protect.
  • Check with the Attorney General's Office to determine if the organization is registered. Registration documents will also contain information about the organization.

Investment Fraud

Investment scams have bilked Minnesota seniors of their life savings. A common scam involves a salesperson who contacts you by phone to sell you an "investment opportunity". But, in order for you to get in on this great "deal", the salesperson will tell you he or she needs your money by tomorrow. Don't fall for it! Hanging up is often your best defense.

Scam Characteristics:

  • Investment fraud usually begins with an unsolicited telephone call from someone you don't know.
  • The caller may represent a "business" selling an "investment opportunity" that is usually located out of state.
  • Phone investments offered include penny stocks, oil and gas leases, precious metals and rare coins.
  • You must send money quickly; overnight delivery services are often hired to pick up payment that same day.
  • Incredible profits are promised-you may hear an offer for a "20 percent annual return".
  • The only contact you have is an out-of-state business with a P.O. Box mailing address.
  • A small first sale may be conducted in order for the seller to gain credibility with you. The seller's goal is to extract larger amount of money in the future.

How to Report

Senior abuse is a serious matter. Anyone who suspects a senior is being abused must report it to the Ventura County Adult Protective Services 654-3200 (24 hours).

Remember, by reporting a suspected senior abuse case, you just might be saving the life of a senior who may not be able to speak for himself.

Fremont North Neighborhood Council / Senior Abuse / Webmaster