Protecting senior citizens from financial fraud

HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) — A national survey finds senior citizens need more financial fraud protection. Financial experts and prosecutors in Hamilton County are doing their part to protect the elderly.

At the East Ridge Residence retirement center, residents are enjoying an afternoon playing bingo. A national survey shows senior citizens need more financial fraud protection. Chris Hopkins, an investment managers at Barnett and Company, says they have not seen too many incidents, but they are familiar with the problem.

“We know seniors are probably the most vulnerable population in terms of financial fraud because they have accumulated assets. They are on a fixed income. They depend upon those assets to live,” Hopkins said.

Financial experts say as we age, it can be difficult to make judgments about people.

“Seniors tend to be a little bit more trusting for one thing, right they tend to let people in, maybe who they shouldn’t. They tend not to be rude. They don’t like to hang up on solicitors,” Hopkins said.

The survey found awareness about this problem is increasing.

“The more that people in the financial industry are aware of the risk, the more we talk about it with clients, the more clients talk about it with family members and friends,” Hopkins said.

Hamilton County assistant district attorneys are helping tackle the problem.

“General Pinkston just asked me to get involved with the attorney general’s conference group dealing with elder abuse, trying to work on the laws and improving the laws,” said David Schmidt, an assistant district attorney with Hamilton County.

Prosecutors say it is important to help senior citizens when they are targeted.

“They are the ones who are most likely to be abused, most likely to be taken advantage of and as a society we want to protect those sorts of people,” Schmidt said.

Experts say there are ways for senior citizens to handle the situation if they find a loved one is ripping them off.

“The best advice is to mention it to someone else that you trust. Mention it to another family member, another friend,” Hopkins said.

In a new law in Tennessee that protects elderly and vulnerable adults, financial exploitation is treated just like theft, but one grade higher.

Categories: Hamilton County, Local News