Insights from The Orlando Senior Help Desk: Orange County Commission on Aging on elder abuse


October 21, 2022

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was launched by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. The purpose of day is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect. The events took place on June 15th.

Many seniors are not in a place to stand up for themselves, whether it’s because they’re physically frail or because they’re scared of speaking up and fear repercussions. It’s crucial for all of us to be on the lookout for signs of elder abuse, and to speak up if something seems wrong.

Types of elder abuse:

Psychological or Emotional Abuse

Physical Abuse


Financial Abuse

Sexual Abuse

Resident On Resident Abuse

Frauds And Scams

Physical signs of elder abuse:

1. Increased fear or anxiety

2. Isolation from friends or family

Unusual changes in behavior or sleep

Withdrawal from normal activities

Financial signs of Elder Abuse

1. Fraudilent signatures on financial documents

Unpaid bills

2. Romance Scam

3. Unusual or sudden changes in spending pattern, will or other financial documents

Romance scams cause higher victim losses to American seniors than any other type of fraud. Millions of Americans use dating websites, social networking platforms, and chat rooms to meet people online. And many forge successful relationships. But scammers also can use these sites to find potential victims. Scammers can create fake profiles to build online relationships—or use other false pretenses—and eventually convince victims to send money, often to cover the cost of a purported emergency or unusual opportunity. 

Source: Federal Trade Commission

Government Imposter Fraud

Government imposter fraud causes the second-highest losses to seniors. For example, Social Security Administration imposters contact prospective victims by telephone and falsely claim that the victim’s Social Security number has been suspended because of suspicious activity or involvement in a crime. The imposters then ask to confirm the victim’s Social Security number, or they may say that they need to withdraw money from the victim’s bank and to store it on gift cards or in other unusual ways for “safekeeping.” Victims may be told their accounts will be seized or frozen if they fail to act quickly.

Perpetrators often use robocalls to reach prospective victims. Victims may be told to “press 1” to speak to a government “support representative” for help reactivating their Social Security number. Scammers also often use caller ID spoofing to make it look like the actual Social Security Administration is calling. With such trickery, perpetrators routinely convince victims to give up their Social Security numbers and other personal information.

Although Social Security Administration imposter frauds currently is the most prevalent government imposter fraud, fraudsters impersonate any number of government agencies, including the IRS, FBI, DEA, and Medicare. Regardless of the agency fraudsters choose to impersonate, the core fraud remains the same: victims are told that they need to share personal information or send money urgently, at times in unconventional ways such as through gift cards or virtual currency.

Sources: Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General and Federal Trade Commission

Lottery Fraud

Fraudsters based in Jamaica and other countries call thousands of people in the Unites States every day, telling them that they have won a sweepstakes or lottery. The fraudulent telemarketers typically identify themselves as lawyers, customs officials, or lottery representatives, and they tell prospective victims that the victims have won vacations, cars, or large sums of money. “Winners” are then falsely told that they need only pay fees for purported shipping, insurance, customs duties, or taxes before they can claim their prizes. Victims often pay hundreds or thousands of dollars and receive nothing in return, and many are re-victimized until they have no money left.

Sources: U.S. Embassy in Jamaica and U.S. Postal Inspection Service

Tech-Support Fraud

In tech-support fraud schemes, fraudsters make telephone calls and claim to be computer technicians associated with well-known companies or they use internet pop-up messages to warn about non-existent computer or account problems. Scammers involved in the schemes claim they have detected viruses, other malware, or hacking attempts on the victim’s computer or associated with the victim’s account. They then pretend to offer “tech support” and ask that the victim give them remote access to his or her computer. Eventually, the fraudster will diagnose a non-existent problem and ask the victim to pay large sums of money for unnecessary – or even harmful – services.

Refund Scheme

After victims make payments to a tech-support scam, perpetrators often call back and offer refunds to the victims, claiming their tech-support services are no longer available. Perpetrators then will claim to send refund money to the victim’s bank account but falsely claim that too much money was refunded. Perpetrators then induce victims to send payments (often through stored-value cards such as gift cards), purportedly to reimburse the tech-support company for its “over-refund.” Victims lose hundreds or thousands of dollars to such refund schemes.

Source: Federal Trade Commission

Family Emergency Fraud

Sometimes known as the “Grandparent Scam,” an individual perpetrator impersonating a relative of the victim contacts the victim via phone, email, or text message and claims that an urgent situation has arisen. The emergency often involves a relative’s purported arrest or injury in a foreign location and a need for immediate receipt of money. Victims typically are instructed to pay via cash, bank wire transfer, and prepaid gift cards. 

Source: Federal Trade Commission

Phishing Scams

With increasing frequency, fraudsters are turning to spam text messages or emails to lure victims into divulging personally identifying information, which can then be used by the fraudsters to commit identify theft. Many of these messages purport to be from well-known retailers, delivery services, financial institutions, utility companies, or government agencies. The text messages or emails often contain a link, which take the message recipients to webpages designed to unlawfully capture personally identifying information. The sites sometimes infect victims’ computers with computer viruses and malware.

In one trending example, the Department of Justice has received reports that fraudsters are creating websites mimicking government unemployment benefit websites, including state workforce agency websites, and unlawfully capturing consumers’ sensitive personal information. To lure people to these websites, fraudsters are sending spam text messages and emails purporting to be from a state workforce agency and containing a link. Consumers especially should avoid clicking on such links send by text messages, as actual state workforce agencies will not contact consumers by text message in an unsolicited manner.

Source:  Federal Trade Commission and Federal Bureau of Investigation

While most seniors face major adjustments when transitioning to an elder-care community, Jewish seniors face additional challenges. Not only do they lose their homes, and many of their friends, but they also lose ties to their cultural heritage. This is where the Jewish Pavilion, a 501c3 non-profit, steps in. The Pavilion serves as a resource that provides room visits, festive holiday celebrations, and more to 450 Jewish residents in fifty facilities for seniors. The Jewish Pavilion promotes inclusion, and thousands of seniors of all faiths are welcomed into our programs.

The Orlando Senior Help Desk (407-678-9363) helps thousands of callers navigate their way through the daunting senior maze, alleviating caregiver stress while giving advice on all types of elder issues.


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