What You Must Know To Stop Scams and Exploitation
by Shannon Miller
Brains and Losses is an investigative report by Marketplace.org regarding the epidemic that is exploitation. The full hour program can be found here.
It was a pleasure being able to work with these professionals explaining how exploitation is affecting seniors in the state of Florida and what we are doing about it. My involvement in the report reflects how serious this epidemic has affected seniors in our state. Since the exploitation injunction became available in Florida (July 1, 2018), Scott Anderson and I have reviewed 12 potential matters and filed petitions in 8. This is a serious problem in our state full of seniors who are falling prey to this crime!
What I love about the Brains and Losses reporting is that the investigators, Sasa Woodruff and David Brancaccio really put their hearts into learning about the reality of the insidious nature financial scams. It is an epidemic of monstrous proportions. As reported, each year, $36 billion is stolen/ given away to scam artists and pilfered by exploiters from our most vulnerable citizens. It has also been reported that the average loss to an exploitation or scam victim is $17,000. What I believe, and what seems to be supported by this reporting, is that the victims are not preyed upon just once, but instead become repeat victims. This is because after their first victimization, the victims’ information is sold on the dark web. The Nathan Sprague study of the brain, as referenced in the Brains and Losses report, is so small in scale that it merely gives us a glimpse into the reality of the exploitable brain. The inability to doubt or assess risk appears to be linked to an MRI visible brain change–the thinning of the cortical insula. This cutting edge discovery requires our immediate attention on the legislative front and further study/research. The scientific community is listening as we make attempts to expand the research base on this terrible epidemic of exploitation and financial scams.
We have our own stories to tell at The Miller Elder Law Firm. First in our hearts and minds is the story of Michael McCadden. He was a decorated Korean war veteran, who came to our firm seeking help after his daughter had taken all of his life savings ($570,000). Sadly Mr. McCadden died shortly after we resolved his case. He was so happy when we told him, but sadly, like many victims of exploitation, he succumbed to his heart disease, exacerbated, I am sure, by the stress and heartache of living with the impact of the crime against him. It is all too common for the victim of exploitation to be bullied and berated by family members and the exploiter themselves, who will often suggest that the victim should have looked the other way, or not pursued recompense from the exploiter.
Please remember, folks, exploitation, in the form of a financial scams or other forms, is a crime, whether it be a family member doing the exploiting or a caregiver, or a stranger on the internet, or Nigerian prince collecting gift cards or Western Union cash, it is still stealing. We hope you will take some precautions to protect yourselves and your loved ones from the possibility of exploitation and scams. Here are some simple suggestions that may help prevent falling victim to scams:
1. Insert a provision in your durable power of attorney for your agent to pursue an exploitation case on your behalf.
INJUNCTION FOR THE PROTECTION OF A VULNERABLE ADULT
My attorney-in-fact is authorized to file for an Injunction for Projection Against Exploitation of a Vulnerable Adult pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 825.1035, as from time to time may be amended, to protect me, my income, or my property (real, tangible, or intangible property wherever located or however situated) from possible exploitation. My attorney-in-fact is authorized to take all actions reasonably necessary to file, prosecute, and maintain an action to obtain an injunction for protection against exploitation of a vulnerable adult. By granting this authority, I also specifically consent to my attorney-in-fact filing the petition for injunction for protection against exploitation of a vulnerable adult and taking all actions reasonably necessary to file, prosecute, and maintain this action.
2. Close your laptop after you use it. Cover the video camera on your computer when it is not in use and mute your computer microphone. We know these can be easily hacked and used to spy on you!
3. Do not ever give remote computer access to anyone, not even Steve Jobs himself (especially not him as he died in 2011…)! Giving computer access can ultimately lead to accessing bank accounts and other important personal information.
We are talking about a $36 billion a year business and that kind of money leads to excellent product development! We must be diligent in our defenses. We must also realize that we too may have loved ones who are being exploited right now and are too ashamed to report the event or are unaware of the exploitation or scam in progress. Ask questions! But be kind. Exploitation is twisted heart crime where the victim usually has a relationship with their exploiter, no matter how seemingly perverse the relationship appears.
We should also understand that just because someone can do all the activities of daily living, pay their own bills and appear “normal“ does not mean that they’re not exploitable. Exploitability as a diagnosable condition appears to be a condition of the changing brain. We may need to accept and educate ourselves and others about this condition. We also need new laws that allow for supported decision-making when people fall into the class of exploitable.
I hope you will listen to Brains and Losses, and listen for the hour long program, highlighting Mr. McCadden’s story, and our efforts to help him on June 15 at 2 PM. Information about exploitation and the hurdles ahead for stopping this epidemic will also be presented.