What Montgomery County is doing to help older adults defend against abuse

Fighting elder abuse — both financial and physical — starts with communication. That’s what the head of the Montgomery County, Maryland, state’s attorney’s office unit that investigates and prosecutes crimes dealing with economic loss said.

Speaking out scares off scammers and can empower older adults. That’s one of the messages Bryan Roslund, chief of the Special Prosecutions Division at the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, had.

Scammers and abusers depend on the silence of their victims, and Roslund said it’s when older people talk with those around them that a lot of scams and abuse are uncovered.

When it comes to financial abuse, Roslund said many older people are embarrassed that they’ve been taken in by crooks.

That’s one reason that figures for the cost of fraud committed against the elderly are “all over the place,” Roslund said.

Figures show that scams targeting the elderly cost between $2.6 to $36.5 billion annually.

“One of the big factors for seniors is shame of getting caught up in these types of scams, and so they don’t report reliably,” Roslund said.

On Thursday, presenters from the Office of the State’s Attorney, the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection, Montgomery County police and other agencies will provide information and resources on the topic for older residents and their families.

It will be held at the Holiday Park Senior Center at 3950 Ferrara Drive in Silver Spring, and it starts at 9:30 a.m.

Roslund said increased awareness has led to positive prevention strategies, such as those employed at local banks.

“We do have a good system here in Montgomery County,” Roslund said. “Banks will report to Adult Protective Services — APS — when there are suspected financial transactions.”

However, thieves are constantly updating their tactics, including the use of new technologies.

Roslund said he wasn’t aware whether AI has been employed in scams in the county, but he said, “The bad guys will be putting AI to use far faster than anybody else can keep up with.”

That’s why keeping lines of communication open are so important.

“The scammers are very, very good, and only by continuing to educate ourselves and being vigilant do we stand a chance against them,” Roslund said.

Physical abuse is unfortunately a reality for many older Americans as well, and Roslund said communication is key. Older people who are isolated socially are most at risk, Roslund said.

So where should older residents or their families turn if they suspect abuse?

“If it’s a victim that’s a vulnerable person or who has trouble caring for themselves,” then Adult Protective Services should be called. “If it is somebody who’s competent and is fine to live on their own, then the police fraud department is the place to start,” Roslund said.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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