Rebekah Garcia is a Legal Aid of North Carolina attorney who handles local elder abuse cases.
WILMINGTON -- A lot of grandparents are receiving distress calls from grandchildren who need money to get out of a scrape with the law. Those calls are a scam.
Monetary scams are just one of the many ways the elderly are taken advantage of. Today’s seniors are also subject to other forms of financial exploitation, physical and emotional abuse, and neglect.
Fortunately, through a grant from the Governor’s Crime Commission, Legal Aid of North Carolina now offers legal assistance to area’s elderly, those 60 or older, who are being abused.
“Elder abuse is more prevalent than we think,” said Rebekah Garcia, the Legal Aid of North Carolina attorney who handles local elder abuse cases.
Nationally, 1 in 44 cases of financial and physical elder abuse go unreported, Garcia said; and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that seniors lose between $2.9 billion and $3.65 billion each year due to fraud.
Given the national statistics, it’s not surprising that most of the cases that Garcia handles deal with financial abuse. They can range from scams such as the grandparent scam mentioned above to a landlord adding fees to a senior’s rent.
Often the problem stems from an individual who has power of attorney withholding the senior’s money or using it improperly, Garcia reports.
Though Garcia does get physical and emotional senior abuse cases, they are fewer in number and more difficult to solve, she says. Seniors may be reluctant to report physical or emotional abuse because they are afraid to lose the support of their caregiver. Also, seniors may not realize they are victims of abuse.
“Elder abuse is not always a punch,” Garcia says. “It can be neglect, emotionally belittling a senior, or the slow siphoning of a senior’s money.”
Fortunately, that help is only a phone call away. Abused seniors can call the state's Senior Legal Helpline, 910-763-6207 or 877-579-7562, where a screener will either refer them to a more appropriate agency for their issue or to a helpline attorney.
Often, the helpline attorney can solve the problem. For example, many seniors want to know their rights so they can negotiate with the offending party themselves. Or, seniors want to learn how stop harassment or prevent someone from having accessing to their money. Then they follow up on their own.
For cases that require an attorney to become personally involved, the senior is referred to the local office. For Cape Fear seniors, that’s Garcia.
Though Garcia tries to settle senior abuse cases outside of court, some go into litigation. Also, if it’s clear a senior is being physically abused, she will file protective orders.
Because most seniors live on a fixed income and qualify for Social Security or disability benefits, they usually qualify for free Legal Aid services, Garcia said.
Full Article & Source:
Attorney handles local cases of elder abuse