Seniors and Crime
Prevention
National Crime Prevention Council 2006
Objectives

Review current data and future projections
 Review the demographics
 Learn how seniors feel about crime
 Examine the major crimes against seniors
including financial crimes, property
crimes, violent crimes, and elder abuse
 Learn what prevention measures seniors
can take
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What Does the
Data Say?
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Seniors Today

Seniors are a large demographic group.
 An estimated 35 millions Americans are
age 65 years old or older.
 This group constitutes 12 percent of the
U.S. population.
Source: www.census.gov
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Older Americans


Persons 85 years of age or older
An estimated 4 million Americans fall into this age
group.
 This group accounts for 2 percent of the U.S.
population.
 Persons 85 years of age or older are the fastestgrowing segment of seniors.
Source: www.census.gov
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More People Getting Older

Americans 65 or older are a fast-growing
demographic group.
 In 2011, the baby boom generation will begin
to turn 65.
 By 2030, it is estimated there will be 71
million seniors.
Source: www.census.gov
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More Foreign-Born Seniors

Immigration and differences in fertility rates
have increased the number of minorities,
including seniors.
 The share of foreign-born elderly is growing.
Regionally, that share is now
35 percent in the West
10 percent in the Midwest
28 percent in the Northeast
27 percent in the South
Source – U.S. Census, Older Foreign-Born Population in the United States: 2000
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More Seniors are Non-English
Language Dominant

Older populations are more diverse
linguistically; a large percentage are nonnative English speakers.
Source – U.S. Census, Older Foreign-Born Population in the United States: 2000
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Ethnic and Racial Distribution of
Older Americans
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Predictions for Seniors

Seniors will live longer. Eventual declines
in cognitive and physical functions could
make them more vulnerable to
victimization.
 Seniors may become less in touch with
innovations and less aware of their
vulnerabilities.
 Services will require more flexibility and
adaptation.
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Fear of Crime

Two-thirds of seniors believe they will
inevitably be victims.
 Many seniors alter their lifestyles
because they fear being victimized.
 Almost half of those age 75 or older are
afraid to leave their homes after dark.
 20 percent of seniors say fear of crime
has contributed to a sense of loneliness
and isolation.
Source – Age Concern (www.ace.org.uk)
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Fear of Crime (continued)

Older Americans demonstrate a higher rate of
fear of crime than any other age group despite
having the lowest victimization rates.
 Knowledge of their vulnerabilities and reduced
self-defense capacities makes them more
cautious.
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Fear of Crime
Other reasons why…
 Potential recovery from physical or
financial injury is often limited.
 Loss of money or physical faculties have
more severe effects than on other age
groups.
 Fear of the loss of their independence
(may be a reason that many do not report
victimization.)
 Media frequently portray the elderly as
victims or, at least, as being vulnerable.
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Most Common Types of Crimes
Against Seniors
1.
2.
3.
4.
Financial crimes
Property crimes
Violent crimes
Elder abuse
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Financial Crimes
These crimes include
 Fraud
 Scams
 Identity theft
 Healthcare fraud
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Financial Crimes (continued)

Financial criminals generally seek to take cash,
credit, credit rating, or other assets by
deception.
 These are very capable criminals. Many have
excellent people skills and/or talent with
computers and similar electronic gear.
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Financial Crimes (continued)

Robbery involves a confrontation and the
threat or use of force, but financial crimes
often involve people who are pleasant and
seemingly helpful.
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Why Are Seniors Targets of
Financial Crimes?
■ Seniors have accumulated resources. Many
own their homes and have insurance, pension
plans, savings, stocks and bonds, and similar
assets that may not always be closely
monitored.
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Why Are Seniors Targets of
Financial Crimes? (continued)
Vulnerabilities based on lifestyle
 Many are accessible by telephone and
mail, have time to listen, are too polite to
hang up, keep assets readily available,
have limited experience with investments,
can no longer perform home repairs, and
are deeply concerned with maintaining
finances to last them through their lives.
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Why Are Seniors Targets of
Financial Crimes? (continued)

Many are isolated by disability, fear of
violence in the community, lack of peer
friendships, or lack of transportation.
 Many are trusting or complacent or forgetful of
details and may be embarrassed to admit they
were victims.
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Fraud

Fraud involves deceit in the commission of a
financial crime.
 Those who commit fraud offer prizes, deals,
opportunities, bargains, and the like.
 They may advertise with a teaser (e.g., “Earn
money working at home!”) or with a phone call
announcing a “golden opportunity to invest.” Or
they may develop personal relationships with, and
then prey on, individuals they meet in various
ways.
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Fraud (continued)
Fraud can take many forms.
 Examples include home repairs, auto
repairs, new carpet or appliances at
bargain rates, work-at-home schemes,
weight loss and similar health-related
programs, stock and related investments,
overseas investments, overseas lottery
prizes, amazing deals on commodities
trades, and more.
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Fraud (continued)

Older people are major targets – they make up
about 12 percent of the population, but 37
percent of telemarketing victims, according to
one study. A telemarketing fraud artist told
investigators, “It is an article of faith in this
business to go after the old folks.”
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Stealth

The person takes or takes control of an asset
without the victim’s knowledge or consent.
 Stealth-based financial crimes include identity
theft, pretext theft (in which someone enters a
home on some pretext (such as “may I use your
bathroom?”), then takes property or personal
information; computer hacking (illegally
accessing information on a computer); and similar
criminal activity.
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Stealth (continued)

Stealth-based crimes are usually difficult to
detect unless the possible victim monitors
small personal property and financial status
and bills closely.
 Stealth-based crimes may go unreported
because the victim may be unsure of whether
or when a theft occurred.
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Identity Theft
A growing threat:
More than 9 million
Americans a year are
victims of this crime; although
seniors are currently a small
percentage of that number.
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How Identity Theft Begins

There are many ways that a criminal can
capture key information about an individual–
– A “pre-approved” credit card mailing
– A reply to a phony request to verify account
information
– A bill from a credit card company
– A receipt with a name and card number
– A list that a computer hacker has stolen and sold
– Mail or bills from discarded trash
– Stolen wallets or purses
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Identity Theft Continued
The criminal uses information to make a
purchase or obtain further information
about a person’s identity
 Social Security number
 Bank account number
 Credit card number
 Driver’s license number
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Identity Theft Continued

The criminal then exploits the identity by
–
–
–
–
–
Piling up charges on an account
Taking money from a bank account
Opening a new account
Applying for a loan or mortgage
Declaring bankruptcy
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Discovering the Theft

Eventually the exploitation is discovered when
the victim
– Receives a bank statement with unknown
transactions
– Finds newly created credit card accounts
– Tries to apply for a loan and is denied
– Is arrested for a crime committed by the thief when
using the stolen identity
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Reporting and Restoring
the Identity

The victim reports the identity theft to the
police and to the major credit bureaus.
 The victim asks the credit bureaus to note the
crime on his or her credit reports.
 Depending on the state, the victim may need
to consult with a local victims’ assistance
agency or an attorney for specific steps that
may be helpful or necessary.
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Reporting and Restoring the
Identity (continued)

The victim should also file a complaint
through the Federal Trade Commission
registry at www.ftc.gov.
 The victim completes an affidavit of
identity theft, available at www.ftc.gov’s
identity theft section.
 NCPC’s Guide for Consumers
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Preventing Financial Crimes
If someone makes an offer that
seems too good to be true, assume
that it is too good to be true!
NCPC’s Telemarketing 101
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Preventing Financial Crimes
(continued)

Demand details in writing via U.S. mail
and save the envelope, which permits the
U.S. Postal Inspection Service to help
investigate any criminal acts.
 Assume that anyone who “must have an
answer immediately” is trying to get you
to act before you think. Insist on time to
investigate the offer on your own.
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Preventing Financial Crimes
(continued)

Keep track of everything you own that is a
financial asset.
 Monitor credit accounts, bank statements,
stock and pension fund statements, properties
you own, and similar assets.
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Preventing Financial Crimes
(continued)

Make sure you get all bills and expected
checks on time.
 Criminals have been known to steal mail
to steal your identity. Call the company if
a bill or check is late. If it was mailed on
time, call your post office and report postal
theft.
 Use a mailbox with a lock on it. Deposit
your outgoing mail in a USPS mailbox.
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Preventing Financial Crime
(continued)
Don’t risk it, shred it.

Shred any material that you are
throwing out that identifies you in
any way – bank statements, extra
copies of records, bills, letters
regarding financial matters, and
similar documents.
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Preventing Financial Crimes
(continued)
Know about your credit.
 Get a copy of your credit report at least
once a year to make sure that
information is accurate and complete.
 Every person is entitled to a free copy
of his or her credit report from each
major credit bureau each year.
 Consider ordering reports on a
staggered basis throughout the year.
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Credit Bureaus
The three major credit bureaus are:
 Equifax - www.equifax.com
 Experian - www.experian.com
 Trans Union - www.transunion.com
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Order Credit Reports

Three ways to order:
– Online at www.ftc.gov Go to Free Annual Credit
Report
– Phone at 877-322-8228
– Mail to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO
Box 105281, Atlanta GA 30348-5281
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Property Crimes
Property crimes against seniors include
 Burglary
 Larceny
 Auto theft
 Petty theft
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Property Crimes (continued)

More than nine in ten crimes against the
elderly are property crimes.
 When compared with other age groups,
persons age 65 or older were
disproportionately victims of property
crimes.
 Property crimes, not violence, represent
the highest share of crime against those
65 or older.
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Property Crimes (continued)

Property crime is any crime when money or
valuables are damaged or stolen from a person,
home, or business without direct personal
contact.
 This includes burglary from a business or
residence and auto theft.
 Victims of property crimes suffer financial
losses and may feel violated and continue to
feel unsafe long after the crime.
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Preventing Auto Theft



Lock the doors. Roll up the windows.
Stay alert and check surroundings.
Securing your car, even if you are
parked in your driveway or leaving the
car for just a minute, can be enough to
discourage many would-be auto thieves.
Check the car and the area around it
before you get in or out of your car.
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Preventing Auto Theft (continued)


Consider installing tracking or security
devices on your car.
Take part in car theft prevention programs
that allow police officers to stop your car if
it’s being driven during hours when you
don’t normally drive.
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Preventing Theft While
Shopping

Empty wallets and purses beforehand of
items you won’t need.
 Keep packages out of sight in the car
trunk.
 Do not walk with your arms full of
bundles that limit your line of sight or
ability to respond.
 Keep your wallet in a front pants pocket
or inside your coat pocket.
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Preventing Theft While
Shopping (continued)

Keep purses closed and held snugly near your
body.
 Keep all receipts separate from purchases.
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Preventing Property Crime
at Home

Set up timed lights and have a trusted
neighbor pick up mail and newspapers
while you are away.
 Make sure your windows and house
number are visible from the street.
Illuminate doorways and walkways.
 Trim shrubs.
 Ask the police department to perform a
security survey.
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Violent Crimes

Seniors experience the lowest number of
victimizations and lowest rate in proportion to
the population.
 The violent victimization rate of seniors has
declined over 22 percent since 2001.
Source- Bureau of Justice Statistics, Criminal Victimization 2003
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Violent Crimes (continued)

Seniors are victimized at an annual rate of 2.7
per 1,000 persons.
 Robbery disproportionately affects seniors. It
accounts for a quarter of the violent crimes
against seniors, but less than one-eighth of the
violent crimes experienced by those ages 12 to
64.
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics
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Preventing Violent Crimes



Remember that most violent crimes
(except robbery and purse snatching)
take place between people known to
each other.
Walk assertively, but not aggressively,
in public areas.
When going outside, go with a friend if
possible.
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Preventing Violent Crimes
(continued)

Carry only the cash and/or credit cards that
are immediately needed.
 Don’t take short-cuts through deserted or
dark areas. Stay where there are lights and
people.
 When traveling, check with hotel staff about
areas that should be avoided.
 If you’re confronted by a robber, hand over
your money or valuables. They’re not
worth your life.
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Elder Abuse

Five million seniors are victims of domestic
abuse each year.
 Estimates are that only 16 percent of cases are
reported.
 Family members are frequent offenders; adult
children are responsible for 36.7 percent; other
family members, 10.8 percent; spouses, 12.6
percent.
Source - National Elder Abuse Incidence Study, 1996
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Elder Abuse (continued)
These types of crimes include
 Physical abuse
 Sexual abuse
 Emotional or psychological abuse
 Neglect
 Abandonment
 Financial or material exploitation
 Self-neglect
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Possible Signs of Physical
Abuse of Elders
Although one sign might not indicate abuse,
many of these are common.

Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones,
abrasions, and burns
Source National Center for Elder Abuse, www.elderabusecenter.org
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Possible Signs of Sexual Abuse

Unexplained withdrawal from normal
activities, a sudden change in alertness, and
unusual depression

Bruises around the breasts or genitals
Source National Center for Elder Abuse, www.elderabusecenter.org
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How To Identify Neglect
More possible signs of elder abuse
 Sudden changes in financial situations may be
the result of exploitation.
 Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor
hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators
of possible neglect.
Source National Center for Elder Abuse, www.elderabusecenter.org
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How To Identify Emotional Abuse
■ Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other
uses of power and control by spouses is abuse.
 Strained or tense relationships, frequent
arguments between the caregiver and elderly
person may indicate abuse.
Source National Center for Elder Abuse, www.elderabusecenter.org
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You don’t need absolute
proof to report abuse.
Even if you just suspect
abuse, call for help.
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What To Do About Elder Abuse

Keep in touch with older friends and gently
question any signs of physical, financial, or
emotional abuse that you suspect.
 Don’t be surprised if a friend denies abuse;
remain in touch, concerned, and observant.
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What To Do About Elder Abuse
(continued)

If signs persist, call the local office on aging
affairs or the local police department. If you are
uncertain, check with someone at your senior
center or another friend.
 Start an education campaign for older people in
your community. Share information, arrange
talks by professionals in the field, and set up
connections to helplines that can advise seniors
on preventing and reporting abuse.
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Tips for Elders
These are steps that will help you live healthier
and more safely.
 Take care of your health.
 Seek professional help for problems
involving drugs, alcohol, and depression,
and urge family members to get help for
these problems.
 Attend support groups for spouses and learn
about domestic violence services.
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Tips for Elders (continued)

Plan for your own future. With a power of
attorney or a living will, healthcare decisions
can be addressed to avoid confusion and
family problems. Seek independent advice
from someone you trust before signing any
documents.
Source – National Center for Elder Abuse, www.elderabusecenter.org
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Tips for Elders (continued)

Stay active in the community and connected
with friends and family. This will decrease
social isolation, which has been connected to
elder abuse.
Source – National Center for Elder Abuse, www.elderabusecenter.org
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Tips for Elders (continued)

Know your rights. If you engage the services
of a paid or family caregiver, you have the
right to voice your preferences and concerns. If
you live in a nursing home, call your long-term
care ombudsman. The ombudsman is your
advocate and has the power to intervene.
Source – National Center for Elder Abuse, www.elderabusecenter.org
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Tips for Elders (continued)

Stay involved and know your neighbors.
 Join a Neighborhood Watch organization.
 Get involved in the TRIAD group in your
area. TRIAD is a partnership between the
chiefs of police, sheriffs, and older and
retired leaders in a community. This group
is committed to reducing victimization
and enhancing police services to seniors.
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How To Report Elder Abuse

If you suspect that abuse has occurred or is
occurring, please tell someone. Relay your
concerns to the local adult protective services,
long-term care ombudsman, or police.
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How To Report Elder Abuse
(continued)

If you have been the victim of abuse,
exploitation, or neglect, you are not alone.
Many people care and can help. Please tell
your doctor, a friend, or a family member you
trust, or call the Eldercare Locator helpline
immediately.
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How To Report Elder Abuse
(continued)

You can reach the Eldercare Locator by
telephone at 800-677-1116.
 Specially trained operators will refer you to a
local agency that can help. The Eldercare
Locator is open Monday through Friday,
9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.
Source – National Center for Elder Abuse, www.elderabusecenter.org
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NCPC Online Resources
Visit NCPC at www.ncpc.org for
information on Elderly Issues
 Crime prevention brochures
 Full-text publications online
 Catalyst newsletter archives
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Other Online Resources

Statistics on Seniors - Census
(www.census.gov) and Federal
Interagency Forum on Aging Related
Statistics (www.agingstats.gov)
 Fear of Crime - Age Concern
(www.ace.org.uk)
 Financial Crimes - Federal Trade
Commission (www.ftc.gov)
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Other Online Resources
(continued)

Elder Abuse - National Center on Elder Abuse
(www.elderabusecenter.org)
 Crime (General) - National Association of
TRIAD, Inc. (www.nationaltriad.org)
 General Information on Seniors - AARP
www.aarp.org and the U.S. Administration on
Aging (www.aoa.dhhs.gov/)
 National Criminal Justice Reference Service
(www.ncjrs.gov)
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National Crime Prevention
Council
1000 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Thirteenth Floor
Washington, DC 20036-5325
202-466-6272
www.ncpc.org
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Presenter Contact Information
National Crime Prevention Council 2006
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Seniors and Crime Prevention - Ohio Crime Prevention Association