Impact of Crime on the Elderly

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by: Tehila Mörtl


While researching the statistics of crimes against elders and the aftereffects, I must confess to being amazed and dismayed by the lack of studies done in the area.  However with some persistence, I learned that a staggering 500,000 seniors fall victim to abuse and neglect, counterfeit trades or street crimes annually.  The increase of social isolation of elders only proves to increase their susceptibility to an assortment of crimes. 

Even individuals who have family members who work in the areas of elder care and education or have knowledge of cybercrimes, frauds and scams can fall victim.  Such was the case of 71 year old, retired Army Corps of Engineers marine biologist, Art Hurme who was a victim of an imposter scam defrauded of $3,000 by a woman posing as his daughter in January of 2014.  Hurme’s wife, Sally, an attorney and AARP project advisor, spent two decades educating seniors about fraud and how to avoid it, across the United States was quoted as stating, “Art knew about all kinds of scams, but this one, and if it could happen to him, it could happen to anyone.”

Given the personal violation one feels from being a victim of crime, the impact on elders is vast and the results devastating.  Following are aftereffects and warning signs to look out for with your elder: 

  • Emotional devastation resulting in depression, anxiety, fearfulness, social anxiety disorder, etc.

  • Physical desolation causing prolonged recuperation and some suffer life threatening illnesses

  • Financial ruin as most seniors live on a fixed income, once an elder loses income, savings or investments these are not monies they can replenish

  • Loss of emotional and/or financial independence

  • Diminished life expectancy

  • Devalued quality of life

  • Increased isolation including withdrawal from family, friends, decreased participation in social activities, regular religious worship, etc.

  • Fear of crime reoccurrence

  • Diminished self-esteem and self-confidence

  • Vicarious victimization, a phenomenon identified by the National Center on Elder abuse, referring to elders who have not been a crime victim but fear becoming one

  • Altered perspective on the world

  • Televised or written news enhancing fears

  • Paranoia

  • Decreased trust in others

  • Decline in ability to make decisions

  • Feelings of shame and self-blame

  • Lack of confidence in investigative and prosecutorial processes

  • Displaced anger and resentment

  • Ruin of credit rating

The most frequent crimes against elders include home repair scams, robbery, purse snatching, pickpocketing, auto theft, etc.  While the threat of crimes against seniors is frightening and seeing such stories on the news can serve to increase an elder’s fears, it is important to educate one’s self and your loved ones so that they continue to live enjoyable, productive lives. 

Tips on remaining safe

  • Maintain home safety by keeping doors and windows locked at night, when home alone or away.

  • Post No Solicitors signs on your front and side windows and doors.

  • Install and utilize peepholes in front, side and back doors.

  • Do not open the door to strangers.

  • Get to know neighbors and provide them with emergency contact numbers.

  • Join the Neighborhood Watch Program.

  • Never leave large sums of money laying around.

  • Stay alert when away from home. Criminals tend to target individuals who appear to be unaware of their environment so, walk with your head up and look around and walk with purpose.

  • Carry your handbag across your chest or wallet in an inside or front.

  • Never resist a robber! Always relinquish cash and any other items the robber demands immediately.

  • When possible, have someone join you on outings.

  • If possible, do not park in unlit or deserted areas.

  • Always keep your car locked and activate the alarm, if you have one, after you have parked.

  • When shopping, particularly at night, park close to the entrance. Ask a security guard escort you to your vehicle.

  • Arrange for direct deposit of all income checks (i.e. Social Security, pension, life insurance, investment disbursement).

  • Alter your schedule regularly (i.e. bank visits, grocery shopping, daily walks).

  • Opt for alternate routes (i.e. do not take the same route everytime).

  • Do not carry large sums of money.

  • Leave unneeded credit and debit cards and checkbook at home in a secure location.

  • Store credit cards separate from checkbook

  • Rather than signing you name on credit or debit cards, write “Please request I.D.” on the signature line.

  • Do not sign checks in advance and never sign blank checks.

  • Never share your credit or debit card number, check or savings information over the phone, with door-to-door salesmen or any other person or organization you do not know.

  • Register your home and cell phone numbers with the Do Not Call Registry.

  • If a solicitor calls, tell them you are not interested and hang up immediately.

  • Report anyone using your name, driver’s license, credit or debit card, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or insurance number to authorities.

  • Never release Medicare, Medicaid or insurance information to anyone other than your medical care providers.

  • Shred all mail, bills, medical records and other personal documents and information you do not intend to keep on file.

  • Never respond to unsolicited e-mails or click on links therein.

  • Use caution when clicking on links in social media sites.

  • Install and use firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware software on all of your electronic devices.

  • Utilize security programs from established, trusted companies on your computer and tablets.

  • Choose your usernames and passwords carefully. Do not use such things as birth dates, anniversaries, spouse, child or pet names, or the like as passwords. Keep your usernames and passwords in a secure location.

  • Turn off electronic devices when not in use.

  • Never use a cell phone for calls or text messaging while driving.

  • Always report any type of crime to appropriate authorities.

  • If you have been injured, contact your health care provider immediately for an appointment. If you are told they have no appointment available, request a work-in appointment and ask to speak with a nurse. Advise the individual you are speaking with of the situation.

  • If you wear glasses or contacts, keep your prescription current.

  • Keep a list of emergency contacts, current medications and allergies on hand at home and when you are out.

Should you have questions or need assistance, please feel welcome and encouraged to call Advise & Protect to talk with one of our experienced and compassionate senior care consultants.  We have the knowledge to assist with securing any service you might need.  For those who would like to share their own experiences of an elder’s passing, please contact us directly.

If you are in need of help with moving for seniors, senior care, money management, elder law, estate management, medical equipment, home care, elder real estate sales or management, planning after life services, etc. please do not hesitate to call Advise & Protect Senior Care Consultants at 646-820-9202 so that we may aid in meeting your needs.