Elder abuse and financial exploitation unit to double resources, 71% increase in cases since 2017

By JAMIE L. COSTA

Monitor staff

Published: 08-21-2023 6:03 PM

The unit of investigators tasked with protecting older adults in the state will double their resources this year after seeing a 71% increase in referrals in half a decade.

Instead of relying on one prosecutor, one program specialist and one victim-witness advocate, Attorney General John A. Formella announced on Monday afternoon that the Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation Unit will be doubling with the addition of another prosecutor, a law enforcement investigator and an investigative paralegal.

“The state has made combating elder abuse a real priority over the last five to 10 years – since it’s creation, they’ve prosecuted lawyers, caregivers, financial advisors and others who have taken advantage of the elderly population,” Formella said. “New Hampshire has an aging population – when someone is a target, it’s not just about the money that you lose. It brings a lot of feelings like guilt, sadness, remorsefulness, embarrassment and can rob someone of their independence and their self confidence.”

With the new resources, the unit will increase the number of cases it investigates and prosecutes annually while also expanding its education efforts. In the last year, the unit made 35 separate presentations to groups of law enforcement and medical professionals, and at financial institutions and senior housing and long-term care facilities. They review the best practices to protect older adults from common scams, neglect and exploitation reporting requirements, services available to older adult victims, investigation techniques and relevant laws to assist financial institutions.

Since it’s creation in 2017, the unit has investigated and prosecuted thousands of reports of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation committed against New Hampshire’s adult residents aged 60 and older, said Bryan Townsend, senior assistant attorney general.

Townsend, who leads the unit, explained to residents of White Rock Senior Living in Bow how they can best protect themselves against scams by always double checking the emails or phone calls they receive when related to social security information, bank information or other personal information. In some cases they were urged not to answer their phones at all.

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Last year, the unit received 1,300 referrals, a 71% increase over 2017 when the it was first established, Townsend said. Across the state, which has a population of 1.4 million residents, nearly 370,000 of them are above the age of 60. According to national data, 1 in 10 elderly people, or about 3,700, are victimized annually while only 1 in 24, or around 1,500, report the abuse and exploitation.

That leaves nearly 2,000 elderly people suffering in silence, Townsend said. By 2035, he expects the numbers of abused to increase from 3,700 to 4,700 as the population continues to age and increase.

Some examples of popular scams include the IRS ruse when someone calls to say the victim owes money, the plea from someone pretending to be a loved one in need of money, and when someone calls out of the blue asking the victim to verify their identification.

When it comes to elder abuse and neglect, signs could include marks on an individual like unexplained bruises and injuries, lack of accessibility to friends and family whether via the phone or in person or group and program absences.

If concerned about an elderly person, individuals can report suspected elder abuse, neglect or exploitation to the Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services at 1-800-949-0470. For additional information or to request a presentation or educational materials, contact Christa Clapp, Elder Abuse Specialist, at christa.g.clapp@doj.nh.gov or 603-271-5009.

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