Utica, N.Y. - The Oneida County Office for the Aging, along with Berkshire Bank, held a unique workshop on Friday in Utica aimed at protecting area seniors from becoming victims of financial exploitation.
Oneida County Office for the Aging Aging Services Coordinator Hallie Kowalski says this Financial Exploitation Workshop is important for seniors as well as caregivers, "We need to get out into the community and educate people so that they're empowered to stand up when they see something going on."
Kowalski says in many cases the perpetrator is someone the victim knows, "You have caregivers, you have people befriending each other just to take advantage of people."
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, about 1 out of every 20 seniors in the U.S. are victims of some sort of financial exploitation each year, but only 1 out of every 44 of those actual incidents are reported to authorities.
Also presenting at Friday's workshop was Mary Chiemelewski, branch manager at Berkshire Bank in Rome.
Chiemelewski says bank tellers are often the first line of defense when it comes to recognizing someone is being taken advantage of, "They are accustomed to what the normal transaction is for an elderly person and they're really the person that will bring something to my attention as the manager. They'll say to me, this customer has come in and they've been taking unusual withdrawals, or maybe there's somebody accompanying the customer. So from there we'll call our security department to do an internal investigation and then if it's necessary, we involve the Office for the Aging."
There are many examples of financial exploitation, including :
- Using ATM cards without permission
- Forging a signature on a check or property title, (wills deeds)
- Telling an older adult money is needed for expenses when the money is really being used for other purposes.
- Using a power of attorney to benefit oneself rather than the older adult
- Unauthorized sales, such as a family ring or the family farm
- Threats to harm someone if money is not handed over
Both Kowalski and Chiemelewski say if you are a senior who believes you are being financially exploited, contact your local police department, but you can always talk to a representative at your banking institution as well, "One of the messages that I try to deliver when I do these presentations is, your banker is never going to judge you, we're there to help, and I would encourage anybody to just come in and sit down with us and talk to us about the situation or even if it's someone you know, get someone else involved."
If you have any questions regarding financial exploitation, you can call the Oneida County Office for the Aging at (315) 798-5456.