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Florida attorney general creates senior protection team

Ashley Moody said team will fight fraud, abuse that targets seniors

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Helping protect seniors from fraud, scams, and abuse. That's the goal of Florida's Senior Protection Team.

The intra-agency group of experts is comprised of leading members from the State Attorney Generals Office of Prosecution, Consumer Protection Division and Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

The goal is to bring attorneys and investigators specialized in fighting civil, criminal and health care fraud together to develop strategies to protect Floridians 60 and older. The team is already meeting with experts and stakeholders across the state to develop aggressive ways to combat fraud against seniors.

Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “This team of highly-skilled attorneys and investigators is laser-focused on identifying, investigating and eliminating fraud and abuse harming Florida seniors.

More than 5 million seniors call Florida home. Many of these great Americans have served our country and economy in countless ways. We owe it to them to make sure they can enjoy their golden years free from the threat of financial exploitation and physical abuse.”

The team of experts is working together and consulting outside senior protection experts from law enforcement, other state agencies, and private advocates and stakeholders to focus on senior abuse, neglect, fraud, service-related issues, long-term care, guardianship, law enforcement training and educational outreach. The team will also work to identify emerging scams, spot trends and stay ahead of changes in technology used to prey on seniors. 

For more information about how to tell if a senior may be a victim of financial fraud and how to guard against senior scams, read the information below.

 

Q. What are some signs that a senior may need additional help with their finances?

A. Bills going unpaid may indicate that a vulnerable adult is in need of assistance, whether that be financial assistance or merely ensuring that bills are paid on time. Insufficient care, whether that be home care or medical care, despite the financial capability to cover such expenses may also
indicate a senior is in need of assistance.

Q. What are some things to watch for if you suspect a senior in your life is experiencing financial abuse?

A. Things to watch for include any suspicious or sudden changes to a will or power of attorney, withdrawals or purchases the senior could not or would not have made for themselves, the sudden sale or disappearance of valuable items or family heirlooms, suspicious signatures on checks or legal
documents, suspicious or sudden creation of a joint bank account between the senior and another individual, and efforts by an individual to keep the senior isolated.

Q. Are there tips for protecting finances that seniors or their caretakers should be aware of?

A. Read bank and credit account statements regularly as they come in. This will ensure that any fraudulent charges or suspicious activity is spotted quickly. Consider consolidating accounts and closing any that are not used with regularity. Accounts that are rarely used or monitored can be attractive
targets for thieves as any theft may go unnoticed for a significant period of time. 

Lock important documents and records in a safe place, either in a safe at home or safety deposit box. Keep personal information, checkbooks and credit and debit cards secure and out of view of guests or workers in the
home.  

Before sharing personal information, such as a Social Security number, with a business, organization or health provider, ask why it is needed, how it will be secured and the consequences if his information is not provided. 

Check credit reports at least once a year to ensure no fraudulent accounts
have been opened. All consumers have the right to a free credit report each year from each of three major credit reporting bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Shred or burn statements, mail and other documents that contain sensitive personal information.

Consider a banking institution that will establish a custodial account or trust wherein the institution will manage the senior’s expenses.