Scams Target Seniors of All Backgrounds
If you haven’t read Robin Goldsworthy’s publisher’s note from last week’s CV Weekly recounting reporter Mary O’Keefe’s run-in with an attempted scam against her mother, I hope you do. I was extremely grateful to Robin for reiterating the need to be informed about financial and other forms of abuse targeted at our community’s senior citizens but disheartened that someone would try to take advantage of Mary’s mother in such a cruel manner. I’ve written about this topic in the past, but each time I hear a new story of fraud or abuse, I am overwhelmed by the senseless cruelty seniors and their families face.
Seniors are among society’s most vulnerable communities. They often have limited mobility, a fixed income and live alone or rely on others for certain aspects of care, making them prime targets for scammers. Unfortunately, even with supportive family members present, misinformation and fear often make seniors less likely to report fraud or other types of abuse. Seniors worked hard their entire lives to care for us, and I believe that we have a responsibility to empower and protect them from abusive opportunists.
While running for office in 2010, I heard stories from constituents about their parents and grandparents having their right to vote stolen by caretakers. That’s why I authored AB 547 (2011), which made it a misdemeanor for anyone providing care or direct supervision to a person who is at least 65 years of age to coerce or deceive that senior into voting for or against a candidate or measure contrary to the senior’s intent. In 2012, I authored AB 1624, which protects senior citizens and others from having their bank accounts drained by a co-signatory. And in 2013 and 2014, I was proud to support the efforts of former residents and local community members to save the Twelve Oaks Lodge, including drafting a letter asking Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate the legality of the closure, encouraging the Glendale City Council to explore emergency measures to temporarily halt the facility’s closure, and urging amendments to AB 2171, which established a set of statutory rights to protect the safety of elderly residents of assisted-living facilities and require a 90-day notice be given to all residents before any senior assisted-living facility may be closed.
More recently, I’ve been teaming up with state and local organizations, to host free “Senior Scam Stoppers” events and help seniors avoid becoming victims of fraud and financial abuse like the one Mary O’Keefe’s mother faced two weeks ago. The events feature a team of experts who discuss fraudulent scams relating to home repair, finances, identity theft, Medicare and other topics.
Earlier this month I was honored to invite Kerri Kasem, the daughter of broadcasting legend Casey Kasem, to share her story at a Scam Stopper event in Glendale. Kerri and I have been working together for over a year to pass legislation that would provide reasonable accommodations for adult children who want to visit their parents, and provide children the right to know when an ailing parent’s health becomes worse or if the parent dies. The proposed legislation, AB 1085, requires children and siblings to be informed when a loved one enters into acute-medical care for more than three days, or passes away. It also provides judges the authority to issue an order enforcing an elder’s right to visitation. Finally, AB 1085 authorizes an agent operating under a medical power of attorney to file a petition to enforce the principal’s rights to visitation.
I remain committed to protecting our seniors and advocating on their behalf. If you have ideas for additional legislation or events on this topic, or if you are a senior in need of assistance with a state or local agency, please contact my district office at (818) 558-3043. My staff and I will be happy to assist you.
Mike Gatto is the chairman of the Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee, and the longest-serving current member of the State Assembly. He represents Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Franklin Hills, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz, and Silver Lake. Follow him on Twitter @MikeGatto or visit www.asm.ca.gov/gatto.