Members of the Shepherdstown Area Independent Living group (SAIL), held a brownbag luncheon dedicated the issue of senior exploitation.
Carolyn Rodis, who specializes in training designed to protect potential victims of financial exploitation spoke to the group about classic warning signs of exploitation.
"Relatives are the largest group of exploiters," she said.
Before service providers, or even strangers on the street, relatives are said to be most likely to take advantage of an aging family member, Rodis explained.
She defined financial exploitation as the "illegal or improper use of money or property."
Rodis outlined examples of possible exploitation, including the unauthorized use of credit or bank cards, the selling or transferring of property without consent, the misuse of power of attorney, or even simply, the refusal to pay back money borrowed to an elderly family member.
In addition to family, Rodis also discussed the many scenarios in which strangers and scam artists try to take advantage of seniors, who they view as most vulnerable.
Professional accountants, lawyers, doctors, caregivers, and hired help are all considered potential exploiters.
"There's a lot of money that people are stealing," she said.
Rodis said seniors are also disproportionately singled out for phone or email scams involving things like phony sweepstakes prizes.
SAIL member Betty Snyder told a story about a scam artist who contacted her claiming she'd won millions of dollars.
"They told me it wasn't a scam. They said the UPS man was already in my neighborhood (with the prize)," she said.
When the caller asked Snyder to produce $1500 "right way," to pay for a portion of the taxes on her winnings, she responded keenly before being disconnected.
"I said 'Oh, I will. Don't you worry.... As soon as the UPS man gets here. I know him personally..."
Rodis outlined steps anyone can take to protect themselves against exploitation.
"Don't be frightened people, but do be aware," she said.
"Ask questions. Take credentials. Be skeptical. Pay attention."
SAIL members invited Rodis to speak, as instances of exploitation among seniors increase, yet go underreported.
"It's important for us to talk about these things," Rodis said.
"There is an explosion in our country of financial exploitation."
More information about Carolyn Rodis and financial exploitation can be found by visiting www.decisionswithdignity.com.