Almanac

News - July 16, 2014

Report: County needs to step up fight against elder financial abuse

by Tiffany Lam

San Mateo County programs and staff dealing with financial abuse of the elderly have declined in the past seven years, according to a recent civil grand jury report. Meanwhile, the elderly population is growing and referrals to county agencies regarding such abuse are steadily rising.

In the July 1 report, the grand jury calls on the county to step up its efforts to prevent and prosecute abuse.

Problems range from abuses by family members and caregivers, to scams such as telemarketing offers and fake lottery winnings. As of 2009, the national financial loss by victims of financial abuse was an estimated $2.6 billion a year, the report says.

Such abuse is expected to grow as the population ages. By 2030, the number of people over 65 in the county will increase by 72 percent, and the number over 85 will rise two and a half times, according to a San Mateo County Health System website.

Older residents in the county often own homes with significant equity, making them especially attractive to financial predators, the report points out.

The grand jury recommends:

• The county's Adult Protective Services agency should implement by the end of the year programs to educate the public and train "mandated reporters," who recognize and report signs of elder financial abuse.

• The District Attorney's Office should by the end of the year improve computer systems and other processes for investigating and resolving abuse cases.

• The District Attorney's Office should by March 2015 evaluate the need for a full-time deputy district attorney and inspector responsible for prosecuting such cases.

The report requests responses from the district attorney and the county Board of Supervisors.

The civil grand jury is made up of San Mateo County residents, appointed by a judge, who investigate problems and prepare reports recommending action by government agencies in the county. The agencies are required to issue a public response to the report.

Go to sanmateocourt.org/grandjury for more information about grand jury reports.

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