According to an IndyStar investigation, thousands of elderly people are exposed to traumatic and often deadly neglect and abuse. The Indiana agency, Adult Protective Services, is responsible for ensuring that these vulnerable citizens are properly taken care of. Unfortunately, investigators from APS are overwhelmed, regardless of how good their intentions may be, and more and more seniors are falling prey to financial exploitation.
Adult Protective Service Comparisons by State
When IndyStar conducted an investigation to find out how Indiana’s Adult Protective Services was performing in comparison to other adult protective agencies across the country, they found that Indiana was coming up short. For starters, Indiana APS has up to 20 days to initiate an investigation after a report comes in. Illinois requires this to happen within seven days, while Ohio requires investigations to be launched within three days. In Michigan, reports must be investigated within one day.
Another problem that Indiana faces is the lack of an adequate amount of investigators to handle reports. When comparing states with approximately the same amount of residents, IndyStar found that Indiana maintained an extremely low amount of full-time investigators. The lower the amount of investigators, the less cases can be handled in a timely manner.
Full-time investigators per state:
- Indiana – 30
- Arizona – 124
- Tennessee – 90
- Washington – 175
APS Budgeting Constraints
When funds are inadequate, agencies and services will not function as smoothly and as competently as when they receive suitable funding. Indiana seems to also be lacking in this section of the investigation, as well, only receiving a budget of $3.26 million. While this may seem like an enormous amount of money, in comparison, it is embarrassingly low. In fact, the animal control in Indianapolis is provided 42.6 percent more funding than APS receives to protect the elderly and endangered adults of the entire state of Indiana.
Other state APS budgets:
- Massachusetts – $20.1 million
- Washington – $13.6 million
- Tennessee – $8 million
The Cost of Under-Budgeting
The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration is the agency in charge of funding APS. APS officials admitted to IndyStar that there is not enough time to visit every home for every complaint or maintain proper records. To make matters worse, they also confessed that victims of senior abuse and neglect are sometimes left in precarious situations due to lack of funding for relocation.
It Will Only Get Worse
APS officials also divulged to IndyStar that there are still open financial exploitation cases from up to seven years ago. Investigators do not have time to spend on pursuing these horrific cases, let alone criminal charges against the people taking advantage of the elderly. According to the executive director of Indiana APS, the problem is getting worse, with a 33 percent increase of financial exploitation cases alone in the past decade.
Bank Robberies vs. Financial Exploitation Cases
In Indiana in the year 2010, there were 1,277 cases of financial exploitation of seniors, in comparison to a mere 110 cases of bank robberies. In that year, financial exploitation losses added up to $38 million, while bank robberies resulted in $1 million in losses. Research conducted by the National Protective Services Association indicates that 10 percent of financially exploited seniors end up depending on government assistance programs, such as public assistance and Medicaid.
Research estimates that merely one in 44 cases of financial exploitation of seniors are reported to authorities. Some of the victims of financial exploitations cases are too proud or ashamed to report what happened to them, while others are unable to report the crimes because their disabilities deem them unable to speak up for themselves. Many have a difficult time understanding why someone whom they trusted would hurt and take advantage of them.
In one case of financial exploitation that occurred in 2010, a Bank of America fraud analyst reported suspicious credit card activity on a new Chase account that went from zero to $19,175.20 in just one month on tattoos and body piercings, furniture rentals, a 60-inch television, and a racing vehicle. Before reporting the activity on the account, he attempted to call the caregiver of the elderly woman, who was authorized as a user on the account. The caregiver, Julie Lagos, gave the analyst a fake address.
The analyst also tried to call the cardholder, the elderly woman, about the recent purchases on the account. While the elderly woman did not seem to know anything about the purchases on the account, she was steadfast about keeping Lagos on the account. She began crying during the conversation and told the analyst not to call again.
When the APS investigator went to the home of the 80-year-old woman the next day, the elderly woman would not open the door. She kept the chain lock attached and merely cracked the door open. When the APS investigator flashed her ID and badge, the woman told her, “You’ll have to talk to Julie,” and closed the door. The APS investigator knocked on the door again, but the elderly woman would not answer this time.
Preventing Financial Exploitation of Seniors
Sadly, the seniors who are financially exploited are being taken advantage of by scammers whom they have come to trust. This is yet another reason why they do not report these incidents. Teaching people who are vulnerable or older how to recognize the signs of scams and pinpoint behaviors of scammers is vital to protect our seniors and prevent financial exploitation.
Retirement and pension accounts have become less popular, which means that most seniors depend on their financial resources to survive. Many have saved up money for decades, some do not trust banks, and others rely on credit cards to pay their monthly bills. In most cases, the elderly person provides their caretaker with authorization to manage their financial accounts, leaving them vulnerable to being exploited.
If your loved one has been financially exploited, you need an experienced Indianapolis senior abuse and neglect attorney who will fight for restitution and help further protect the vulnerable seniors in our society. Contact the law firm of Rowe & Hamilton to discuss the details of your case today.