Time for anti-elder abuse programme
THAT THE ELDERLY are at risk of being conned has long been recognised. However, yesterday’s SUNDAY SUN report that men of the cloth are also preying on them raises new worries for the entire society. No one is isolated from the greed being clearly exhibited.
Undeniably in Barbados today, older people are certainly in the high risk category of becoming victims to a range of fraud: shady investment deals, cybercrime and even straightforward theft by close relatives. There is a growing number of seniors who have built up sizeable assets even if they are not cash rich.
They are certainly strong candidates for scammers who clearly study and understand their victims, especially their weaknesses, can play on the emotions, and win the confidence of their targets before unleashing dastardly deeds.
The scammers may be relatives simply seeking to get the elderly to sign off on pension cheques while on their hospital beds; or it may be caregivers or friends who find various ways to carry out their financial abuse against this vulnerable group. Such predators commonly groom their victims and isolate them from family members before moving in for the crime.
Misused power of attorney is a licence to steal and a special type of criminal activity to pay special attention to, while an eagle eye must be kept on home health aides, financial planners and others, often professionals, in positions of trust who also swindle the elderly, not only of money but their valuables. Given the state of the economy, this bad situation may become worse.
We may never know the true extent to which senior citizens in Barbados fall victim to fraud. It is simply underreported and there is no known record being kept of such activities. The situation is compounded by many victims not reporting their misfortunate, often too embarrassed to admit what has happened. Many of the victims will need counselling, given the emotional issues they will face after such criminality. Unfortunately, many of the perpetrators feel that they have an entitlement.
There is an obvious need to reach out and help our seniors, long before the advent of any cognitive decline. The Barbados Association of Retired Persons (BARP), along with the Royal Barbados Police Force and the social services, must act to help our ageing population from becoming victims of identity theft, credit and debit card fraud, deed and equity theft, and various other crimes.
They have the expertise to initiate an anti-elder abuse protection and support programme which can be complemented by a sustained public awareness campaign as we must place emphasis on preventing such crime.
As a country with an ageing population, this is a frightening development which cannot be ignored given the number of people who could become victims. The emerging and rising level of financial crimes against seniors must be quickly and adequately addressed.