larsen senior center

The Larsen Senior Center in Attleboro.

ATTLEBORO — Just before Christmas, a 70-year-old city man was scammed out of thousands of dollars after his computer was hit with a fake virus.

An on-screen ad popped up and gave a phone number he could call for repairs.

He did and was instructed to buy Google Pay cards and give the numbers to the person he called.

Supposedly someone would then come to fix his computer.

But no one ever did, and now he’s out $7,000.

Police Chief Kyle Heagney told The Sun Chronicle at the time that all residents, but especially elderly ones, need to be wary of this kind of fraud.

“This is a terrible exploitation of our elderly citizens,” Heagney said. “Especially this time of year, for someone to take advantage of the elderly is disheartening.”

That crime came just as the city’s council on aging ramped up an effort to help elders deal with abuse of all kinds — physical, emotional and financial.

“Abuse and neglect of our senior population is far more common then we may want to think and is a growing problem,” Council on Aging Director Madeleine McNielly said in a letter to The Sun Chronicle. “The incidence of financial exploitation, the misuse or withholding of an older adults’ resources, is growing nationally. Fraudulent telemarketing schemes and unscrupulous scam artists increasingly target elders, resulting in significant financial losses.”

She said a study by the U. S. Administration on Aging estimates that up to 1 million elderly are physically abused, neglected or financially exploited each year.

In addition, cases of abuse are not reported far more often than they are, she said.

She cited studies showing only one out of every 25 cases is reported.

A significant part of the growing abuse is financial, McNielly said.

“One third of reported elder abuse cases last year involved allegations of financial exploitation and the number is expected to grow as the population ages,” she said. “National and state elder services recognize that addressing financial exploitation is a priority.”

To make matters worse, the perpetrators are often members of an elder’s family, which is damaging emotionally as well as financially.

“Loved and trusted family members too often make illegal and improper use of resources, resulting in emotional and financial damage that is devastating.,” McNielly said.

“Elders and vulnerable adults are left unable to pay for their basic daily needs, including housing, food, critical utilities and medications, and are traumatized by this victimization. “

So to help stem the tide of elder abuse, the COA is hosting a program at 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10, at the city’s library on North Main Street “to aid in early identification and prevention of elder financial exploitation and fraud.”

Presenters will include Gabriela Vieira, vice president, Banking Center Manager, Webster Bank; former city detective Arthur J. Brillon, now a special investigator from District Attorney Tom Quinn’s Financial Abuse Investigative Team; and lawyers from South Coastal Counties Legal Services Inc.

To register, call the COA at 774-203-1906.

George W. Rhodes can be reached at 508-236-0432.

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