When Pamela Glasner's mother died, she and her brother contacted the nursing home to transfer power of attorney for their father to themselves. That's when they learned that their father had signed everything over to a man they did not know.
The person had presented their father a paper in the nursing home and said, "sign here." It was considered legal, and even after her father's death, Glasner is living with the consequences.
Glasner produced the documentary “Last Will and Embezzlement” to educate Americans about the prevalancy of financial exploitation of the elderly. "I did this because no one should have to live through what I've lived through and am still living through," she told more than 100 residents of retirement community.
Glasner's film made its Virginia debut at Greenspring's first Fraud Prevention Expo in May. The documentary, which premiered in New York City earlier this spring, features Hollywood icon Mickey Rooney, himself a victim of fraud of the elderly. The New York Times called the documentary “eye-opening,” and The Huffington Post said it should be “required viewing”.
Before the film, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli told the group that fraud and elder abuse are big problems in Virginia. "The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) -- which includes the Elder Abuse and Neglect Squad -- (is) the only unit in my office which has not shrunk with the budget cuts," he said. In fact, the unit has increased by 50 percent since Cuccinelli became attorney general in 2010.
Cuccinelli also gave an example of the prevalence of Medicare fraud in the state. He told the story of an ambulance service in Virginia caught charging Medicare for life-support transportation of patients in ambulances, when in fact they were putting the patients in taxis.
"Companies like this count fraud as the price of doing business," said Cuccinelli. "They figure if they get caught, they'll pay the fine," he said. In this case, however, the manager was sentenced to 27 months in jail in addition to being required to repay $170,000. "It's a privilege for me to be putting people like this in jail, because we need to make this about more than just the cost of doing business," said Cuccinelli.
He told of the currently popular scam which has a caller requesting bank account information, saying you qualify for a mortgage refund based on the settlement between the Federal Trade Commission and five banks charged with illegally assessing millions in fees from struggling homeowners.
"A simple rule of thumb is this: If you receive a call asking for personal information or money, never give it. Just hang up," said Cuccinelli. "Only when you initiate the call should you ever consider giving out personal information."
"We have investigated 17,000 complaints of elder abuse in the last full year for which I have data," he said. "We are overwhelmed with concerns, and you can help us spot them," he said.
Persons can contact TRIAD -- "the cooperative effort of law enforcement agencies (police, fire, sheriffs), senior citizens, and senior organizations, focused on reducing crimes against ... seniors."
Many crimes against the elderly go unreported. According to the film Last Will and Embezzlement, this is due to several reasons:
- The victim is embarrassed.
- The victim feels responsible.
- The victim fears retaliation.
- The victim fears losing their freedom.
- The victim fears losing contact with this person, who may be the only "family" they have.
- The victim does not even know they are being defrauded.
"These crimes can happen to anyone anywhere," said Glasner. "It is important that everyone speak up."
Fraud Prevention Expo
"The expo is being held to educate residents and their families about how seniors can protect themselves from fraud, scams and exploitation, and to address what systems and services are in place at Greenspring, in the community and in the state to protect residents," said Robin Gliboff, Greenspring's executive director.
The expo featured information from vendors including AARP, Fairfax County Consumer Protection Division, United States Postal Inspection Service, Shred It, PNC Bank (which operates at Greenspring), Ritzert & Leyton, PC, TRIAD (Crime Prevention Unit for Seniors), Fairfax County Police Department, Virginia State Corporate Commission Bureau of Insurance, Virginia State Corporate Commission Division of Securities and Retail Franchising and Greenspring’s Social Work and Security Departments.