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October, 2006

Senior News from October, 2006

Advice on Avoiding Financial Abuse
This week, Business Week is offering advice for adult caregivers about how to help seniors manage their assets and avoid financial abuse.  The article suggests that adult caregivers help seniors find a reputable broker. This process involves both social research (ask friends for referrals, conduct an interview of the prospective broker) and a bit of computer research as well (see the National Association of Securities Dealers’ information on broker background checks). Other related articles in the magazine’s investment section give advice about setting up powers of attorney, suggesting that seniors be careful to review their documents and to explicitly stipulate how money may be spent on their behalf.
For more information, see Business Week’s Investing Survival Guide: Preparing for Aging Parents and the National Association of Securities Dealers investor alerts.


Identity Theft Alert: Seniors’ Medicare Records at Risk

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, the health and medical records of millions of seniors may be at risk. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) receives and transmits highly personal claims data, such as diagnoses and prescriptions, as well as names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers, through its computer system. This computer system is administered by a private subcontractor. According to auditors, however, CMS has not always ensured that the contractor follows CMS’s computer security regulations. 

In all, the audit uncovered 47 flaws in the transmission of confidential records. The information resulting from these flaws could be accessible to unauthorized third parties and put beneficiaries at risk for identity theft. However, it’s important to note that the audit covered only the transmission of records, and intercepting data during transmission would be difficult. Furthermore, the report doesn’t indicate that any records have actually been compromised, but only that the potential for compromise exists.
It’s important to know what to do if you feel you are the victim of identity theft. If you believe that your identity has been stolen, follow the Federal Trade Commission’s immediate steps for identity theft victims. For more information on avoiding identity theft, see’s recent article, “Great Ideas for Senior Citizens on Preventing Identity Theft,” and NCPC’s identity theft brochure (PDF).

New Methods To Respond to Elder Abuse

For decades, elder abuse has gone unreported and unpunished in far too many cases.  Due to the lack of funding, research, and data on the issue, elder abuse has often been ignored.  However, as more people become educated about the issue, more is being done to prevent it and prosecute those guilty of the crime.  Now, investigators are beginning to implement the same forensic techniques that have been used to investigate domestic violence and child abuse in the past. 


At the Elder Abuse Forensic Center in Orange County, CA, public health and law enforcement officials are learning more accurate ways to diagnose and prosecute elder abuse.  Geriatricians at Baylor College in Houston, TX, are reviewing county autopsy reports, looking for suspicious trends.  Bank tellers at Wachovia Bank branches nationwide are learning to detect irregular transactions in senior citizens’ bank accounts.  The U.S. Senate is also reviewing the Elder Justice Act of 2006, which would create the first nationwide database on elder abuse.  Overall, there is more being done across the country today than ever before to recognize and prevent the crime of elder abuse.


For more information, read an article by the New York Times.


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