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New Efforts to Prevent Fraud Targeting Seniors

Flickr / Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig, hikingartist.com

"If you have to spend money to get money," says Polk County Attorney John Sarcone, "it's clearly a scam."

Yet many don't know this telltale sign, particularly Iowa seniors who are often the targets of fraud and embezzlement.

But now older adults in the Des Moines area will have greater access to safety and security resources thanks to a new chapter of TRIAD, a national non-profit which aims to reduce criminal victimization and exploitation of the elderly. Through partnerships with law enforcement, emergency response, and community services and organizations, TRIAD educates elderly individuals on how to avoid becoming victims of these crimes.

"We have crime perpetrated against seniors, and the fraud and embezzlement is on the upswing," says Polk County Sheriff Bill McCarthy. "We've had scammers particularly hit on senior citizens with respect to utility bills and witness lists for court, and you name it and they've tried to do it."

McCarthy hopes that TRIAD will not only educate the elderly population, which is increasing, but also connect potential fraud victims to a network of trusted resources. McCarthy says his own father was a  defrauded of $8,700, which he through was going to underprivileged families.

"We were able to get it stopped once my sister found out was happening, but it's that type of thing would happen all the time," says McCarthy.

At times it's not strangers, but caretakers or even the relatives of seniors who are the perpetrators.

"We have citizens who are very proud and don't want to turn in a family member, and to admit that they've probably been taken advantage of, so that's a difficult thing" says Sarcone. "So through the education process we hope that we can let seniors know, 'You don't have to put up with this. You've worked hard all your life. You have retirement, it's not there for someone to steal.'"

In addition to the new Des Moines chapter, there are currently TRIAD resources in several locations around the state where older Iowans can access services.