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October 17, 2013 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-10-17

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metro >> on the cover

Fighting Elder Fraud

Suggestions for protecting
seniors and their families.

Ronelle Grier I Contributing Writer


As the nightmare unfolded, the siblings
learned that a member of their parents'
synagogue had prepared documents and
acquired the necessary signatures to gain
power over the Glasners' bank accounts and
other assets.
"My father had dementia: said Pamela
Glasner, Harry's daughter. "He would have
signed the Magna Carta"
The siblings were further horrified to
learn the perpetrator had created and
executed a new will, which made him the
beneficiary of their parents' home and hun-
dreds of thousands of dollars, their entire
life savings. The man had been paying regu-
lar visits to Harry, posing as his son, and no
one at the nursing home had questioned his
When Harry's condition worsened and a
higher level of care was required, there were
no funds to transfer him to a more appro-
priate facility. He died a year later.
"It's not only about the money," Pamela
Unfortunately, the Glasners' story is not
uncommon; financial exploitation of the
elderly has increased by epidemic pro-
portions. Exact statistics are hard to find
because many of these crimes go unre-
ported, but statistics from National Adult
Protective Services Association (NAPSA)
and other organizations show that one in
20 older adults has suffered some form of
perceived financial mistreatment.
While much publicity has been given
to hoaxes perpetrated by shady home
improvement companies, fly-by-night
investment "counselors," and Internet or
mail scams, few seniors are cautioned
about the people in their own inner circles.
However, NAPSA reports more than half of
financial exploitation crimes against seniors
are perpetrated by friends, family members

Elder Fraud

• Jewish Detroit Seniors: information
and referrals, Jewishdetroitseniors.org ;
(248) 661-1836

• Michigan Office of Services to the
Aging, www.michigan.gov/osa;


October 17 • 2013

or other trusted individuals such as caregiv-
ers, legal guardians, attorneys and invest-
ment advisors.
When Pamela Glasner learned that, after
a cursory investigation, Florida law enforce-
ment officials determined there were no
grounds for prosecution, she made it her
mission to create awareness and prevent
other families from experiencing similar
The result is a documentary film, Last
Will and Embezzlement, written and pro-
duced by Glasner and Deborah Louise
Robinson and presented by Starjack
Entertainment. The film, which also stars
actor Mickey Rooney, who testified before
Congress about his own financial victimiza-
tion by a trusted family member, has been
shown to individuals and organizations
throughout the country.
A screening was held Sept. 30 at the
Berman Center for the Performing Arts in
West Bloomfield, where Glasner and a panel
of local professionals in the field of elder-
care discussed the issue and offered sugges-
tions for seniors and family members.

Preventive Measures

Steven Kaplan, West Bloomfield Township
Trustee and a former Wayne County pros-
ecutor, said many elderly people are not
aware when their ability
to make sound decisions
starts to decline. He
advised seniors to take
certain protective mea-
sures before this hap-
pens, such as appointing
a power of attorney, to be
activated if and when the
Steven Kaplan
person becomes unable
to make his own deci-
"Ask a younger person you trust to tell

• Area Agency on Aging 1-B,
www.aaa1b.com ; 1-800-852-7795

• Alzheimers Association, Greater
Michigan Chapter, www.alz.org/gmc;
1-800-272-3900 (24-hour helpline)

• Booklet: Changes and Choices: Legal
Rights for Senior Adults
www.legislature.mi.gov or contact your
legislative representative

you when you're slipping; he said. "You
can't appoint a power of attorney if you
have been deemed incompetent, so do it
ahead of time
He also recommended basic precautions
for seniors living on their own, such as veri-
fying credentials for anyone who is unfa-
miliar before opening the door, installing a
burglar alarm, being vigilant in public park-
ing lots and keeping items such as Medicare
and Social Security cards in a safe place.
"Collect your mail frequently [instead
of leaving it in the mailbox] and don't give
out your Social Security number," he said.
"Most criminals are cowards; they want
easy targets"
Laurel Felsenfeld, professional elder
advocate and president of Aging Answers,
said an original Medicare card is only
required on the first visit to a doctor. She
advised copying the card and blacking out
some of the numbers to use at subsequent
Panelists and eldercare attorneys Kathy
Sussman and Monica Moons of Couzens,
Lansky, Fealk, Ellis, Roeder & Lazar in
Farmington Hills endorsed the idea of cre-
ating legal documents and putting them in
place before they are needed, and appoint-
ing more than one trustee when setting up
a trust.

Reporting Is Key

While there are a number of government
agencies and other organizations avail-
able to help senior citizens who have been
defrauded (see box), many of these crimes
and suspicions go unreported for a variety
of reasons. Some individuals are embar-
rassed about having been victimized,
others don't realize what is happening,
some are reluctant to complain because
they are dependent upon the person who
is exploiting them, or they are afraid of

• National Center on Elder Abuse
U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
www.ncea.aoa.gov ; 1-855-500-ELDR

Reporting Medicare Fraud

To report suspected Medicare fraud or

• HHS Office of Inspector General

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg and
filmmaker Pamela Glasner

being declared incompetent and sent to a
nursing home.
"The first thing is to talk about it, bring
it out into the open, educate caregivers and
family members; involve the whole family
and remove the stigma," said Ann Langford,
a panelist from the Area Agency for Aging
1-B, which provides services for seniors in
six counties, including Oakland County.
Banks and other financial institu-
tions can help thwart and prevent elder
fraud, according to Lynne McCollum of
the Michigan Office of Services to the
Aging. She said reports of elder abuse have
increased 300 percent since banks received
federal guidance encouraging them to
report these incidents as
part of their Suspicious
Activity Report (SAR)
"Unfortunately, we all
know somebody who's
been a victim:' said
McCollum, who served
as moderator of the pro-

Risk Assessment

The mental and emotional state of an
elderly person can play a part in whether he
or she becomes a victim of fraud, according
to panelist Dr. Peter Lichtenberg, geriat-
ric neuropsychologist and director of the
Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State
University. According to a five-year study he
worked on, risk factors include psychologi-
cal vulnerability, depression and dissatisfac-
tion with one's role in society.
Lichtenberg developed an assessment
tool that helps determine older adults' vul-

• Centers for Medicare & Medicaid

A reward of up to $1,000 may be
available for reporting Medicare fraud
if certain conditions are met. Visit
www.stopmedicarefraud.gov for more

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