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One of five seniors older than 65 are scammed, says survey

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As part of the eighth annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman partnered with the state's leading experts on preventing elder abuse and exploitation at William Mitchell College of Law annual event to raise awareness in this often under-recognized problem.

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Rothman's presentation, "Preventing Elderly Investment Fraud," was tailored to health care professionals, focusing on how to spot and report fraud and financial abuse within the elderly and vulnerable adult populations.

"Minnesota's seniors are often the target of financial fraud - whether through investment or other scams - these crimes go unreported to loved ones at an alarming rate," said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. "Providing this education and training program to health care professionals as well as CPAs, and others to learn how to identify the warning signs of financial fraud and ask their clients important questions is an important tool to stop and prevent financial exploitation."

Age-related factors, illnesses, and cognitive impairment are factors that can make many older adults particularly vulnerable to investment fraud and financial exploitation. Senior citizens control nearly 70 percent of the nation's wealth - and crooks know it, often making seniors a prime target for fraud. According to a 2010 Investor Protection Trust (IPT) Elder Fraud Survey, more than seven million older Americans - one out of every five citizens over the age of 65 - already have been victimized by a financial swindle. In fact, older consumers lose $2.5 billion every year to financial abuse.

An important goal of the Department of Commerce is the prevention of elderly abuse through increased educational and awareness efforts. Health care providers are key in the detection and prevention of elder abuse.

The training session is a continuation of the Commerce Department's involvement in the ongoing Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevention Program (EIFFE); a successful national effort that educates medical professionals about how to identify senior citizens who may be particularly vulnerable to investment fraud, and then refer those at-risk patients to local Adult Protective Services (APS) professionals.

The EIFFE program was developed with a grant to Baylor College of Medicine made by the non-profit Investor Protection Trust. Minnesota is one of 27 states participating in the continuing medical education program.

Commissioner Rothman stressed the importance of awareness and the steps that seniors can take to protect themselves. "The best line of defense is prevention through education. Whether you are being solicited over the phone, through email, or someone knocking on your door, seniors must take steps to prevent becoming the next victim."

Protect Yourself

Minnesota seniors are urged to be aware of the potential for elder financial abuse and to take the following steps to protect themselves from scams:

End the Call - There is no such thing as being rude when protecting yourself and your investments from scammers. If a solicitor makes you uncomfortable or is confusing, just hang up. Trust your instincts.

Phone a Friend - When Commissioner Rothman's grandmother is called by a solicitor over the phone, the first thing she does is call Commissioner Rothman. You should identify a trusted friend or family member you can call for questions and advice.

Report the Fraud - The Minnesota Department of Commerce is here to help. Report the fraud so others don't fall victim to the same scam.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce Consumer Help Line can be reached by phone at (651) 296-2488 or (800) 657-3602. Complaints can also be sent by email to consumer.protection@state.mn.us or by mail to Minnesota Department of Commerce, 85 7th Place East, Suite 500, Saint Paul, MN 55101.

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