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Advocates for senior citizens concerned about financial exploitation

Tim Janusz Tim Janusz
Cynthia Young Cynthia Young
John McDermott John McDermott

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Physical abuse isn't the only way an elderly person might be victimized. Advocates for senior citizens are increasingly concerned about financial exploitation.

State Rep. John Mizuno says by the year 2020, one in four Hawaii residents will be over the age of 60. On Tuesday, lawmakers and organizations that provide services to seniors came together to discuss problems facing the elderly.

In 2007, Timothy Janusz was sentenced to 30 years in prison for stealing more than $300,000 from senior citizens who thought they were donating their money to the Salvation Army.

That same year, Cynthia Young accessed her 101-year-old aunt's bank account and took out $78,000.

"They've got their pension, they've got their homes, they've got their retirement money and so sometimes (they are) easily exploited by family members or by outsiders, by caregivers," John McDermott, state Executive Office on Aging, said.

To prepare for the upcoming legislative session, the House and Senate human services committees hosted an informational briefing on elder abuse, neglect, financial exploitation and other issues.

Authorities say there's a growing concern about people who see senior citizens as easy targets and prey on them.

"Seniors, I think, in Hawaii are sometimes very trusting, maybe too trusting," McDermott said. "It's not a good idea to hire a case manager who you just met sitting next to you on the bus."

Elderly folks should take steps to protect themselves, including running background checks on caregivers, screening those who are seeking donations, and keeping up-to-date on the latest scams.

"After the damage has been done, it's very difficult to undo that," McDermott said. "If you've lost your house, if you've lost your savings, good luck getting it back."

Advocates say the rest of the community can do more to protect our senior population.

"There has been an attitude of mind your own business, that maybe you see something next door or you hear something next door that you know is not right, but you don't want to get involved," McDermott said.

Often crimes against the elderly go unreported.

Each county has its own Office on Aging, which provides seniors information about legal assistance, adult day care, transportation and other topics.

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