AARP Florida, FSU host law clinic with Ashley Moody and Shevaun Harris to spotlight elder abuse

Caregiver holding elderly senior patient (ageing old adult perso
Scams targeting the elderly are always evolving, the Attorney General said.

Technology has made tricking elders out of their money an ever-evolving project, Attorney General Ashley Moody told the audience at a special law clinic held in recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD).

Moody told the audience she braces herself every time the FBI releases its Internet Crime Complaint Center’s annual report. And 2022 was a doozy, she said. It showed total losses by people over 60 increased 84% in the last year, rising to $3.1 billion, Moody reported.

“We’re all trying to protect our seniors, but we’re seeing the losses increasing rapidly,” she said. “Why would you be seeing that? Because we’re seeing a rapid evolution in technology in types of schemes, financing schemes, ways in which folks not only get control of the person in terms of a caregiver situation, but also control of assets and money.”

The latest involves artificial intelligence being able to mimic the sound of a loved one’s voice, telling a vulnerable adult they are in jail and need money to get out.

“You better believe we are going to start seeing new and improved scams against our seniors,” Moody said.

Moody was joined by Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Shevaun Harris for an expert panel that AARP Florida sponsored at Thursday’s Claude Pepper Elder Law Clinic at Florida State University.

AARP Florida, collaborating with the Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy and the Claude Pepper Center, is trying to raise awareness of these new schemes at events like Thursday’s, aiming to fight the tide of those attempting to prey on the elderly, officials said in a news release highlighting the event.

“AARP Florida is proud to participate in educational opportunities held on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day each year. Older Americans are frequently the targets for various forms of abuse,” said AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson. “We can help prevent elder abuse by building stronger social structures to support caregivers.”

Talking about the problem is key, according to a news release from the partners in combating crime against seniors.

“The Claude Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy is dedicated to providing outreach activities that address the opportunities and challenges of an aging population,” said Rima Nathan, Director of the Claude Pepper Elder Law Clinic. “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is an opportunity for us to highlight local resources and share ways for people to recognize and address elder abuse in their communities.”

For internet-savvy seniors — and the loved ones of those who wouldn’t go searching themselves — Moody’s Office has developed a resource. On the Scams at a Glance page, her office details the latest ways scammers are trying to separate people from their money

Chauvin wrapped up the event, detailing the scope of the problems involving seniors that her Department encounters through its hotline. In the last 12 months, DCF has come into contact with 33,000 people older than 60 through its investigations. Of those, only 19% resulted in a finding of abuse or neglect. The second-most common finding — 14% — was about lack of supervision. Eleven percent of the cases resulted in a finding of exploitation.

“The responsibility for protecting our state’s elders does not stop with government agencies,” Harris said. “In fact, it’s all of our responsibility and that’s why the role that we play in terms of managing the abuse hotline and creating that safe space for individuals to report instances of concerns when they see things with seniors … is so vital.”

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].

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