Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses to Financial Crimes Against the Elderly

The table below summarizes the responses to financial crimes against the elderly, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

General Responses
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
1Creating multiagency task forces Provides a range of expertise in critical areas…formed as a collaborative partnership between public, private, and nonprofit agenciesAs a stand-alone strategy, not likely to directly impact the scope or level of the problem
2Working across jurisdictions Creates the ability to build cases against highly mobile offenders; incorporates expertise in areas of co-occurring crimescreated through formal interagency agreements with clear and specific protocols for line-level officersRelationships require maintenance; need clear indications of the lead agency in specific cases; potential for "turf" issues to reduce efficacy
3Improving reporting mechanisms Improves the quality of the data available to assess the scope of the local problem; creates the ability to provide services to avoid repeat victimizationclear directions for reporting are widely publicized; specific protocols for agency cross-reporting are developedRate of reported crimes will increase; potential for one agency to interfere with the activities of another working the same case
4Training police to interview elderly victims of financial crimes Increases the quality of investigations; increases sensitivity to victims' needsongoing training is available; barriers to accessing information held by other agencies are removed up frontRequires long-term commitment to training; requires obtaining access to information that is traditionally not quickly available to police
5Decreasing victims' isolation Improves the ability to support and monitor financial decisions by at-risk seniors; improves the chances of early detectioncontact is ongoing and in person; contacts are knowledgeable about warning signsRequires long-term commitment
Specific Responses: Fraud
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
6Educating seniors and other concerned parties Makes it more difficult for frauds to succeedthe curriculum includes specific strategies for identifying frauds as they are occurring, and techniques for ending unwanted interactionsDifficult to access seniors who are isolated, are disabled, or have diminished mental capacity (high-risk groups); requires practice and ongoing compliance from the recipient
7Identifying high-risk seniorsDecreases the likelihood of repeat victimizationservices include individualized attention to high-risk behaviorsIndividualized nature of the intervention can be time- and cost-intensive
8Reversing the "boiler room" Effectively identifies those likely to be open to fraudulent sales pitchesprevention information is delivered in a way that meets elders' need for interaction, rather than relying on recordingsExpensive; less effective without personal interaction and without individualized, concrete strategies for minimizing high-risk behaviors
9Making it easier for victims to hang up on telephone scams Decreases exposure to fraudulent pitches; reduces temptationexposure is primarily via telemarketing callsExpensive; does not address other sales approaches (mail, in person)
10Launching undercover operations Increases offenders' risk of arrest and prosecutionlaunched as a multiagency effort; undercover victim strategy is coupled with infiltration of the organization itselfExpensive; requires long-term commitment; complex and competing interests
Specific Responses: Financial Exploitation
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
11Enacting proactive health care, legal, and financial planning Makes it more difficult to access elders' assetsdone early, before any cognitive deterioration; attorneys and financial experts guide the arrangementsDoes not guarantee long-term security of assets
12Assessing statutes related to power of attorney Decreases vulnerability to abusethe review is accompanied by new procedural safeguardsLegislative changes require long-term commitment; impact limited to attempts to abuse power of attorney
13Screening caregivers Prevents those with criminal records of abusing the elderly from continuing to do socriminal records in multiple jurisdictions can be accessedEffectiveness is limited to those situations in which caregivers are hired through an agency; will not impact informal arrangements
14Training police and professionals involved in elders' affairs Increases possibilities for early detectionthere are ongoing working relationships between police and the professionals; a specific officer is identified for future inquiriesMay still require a mental health professional to determine the capacity for consent; assessments are expensive
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
Response No.
ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
15Disseminating information as a stand-alone strategy Provides access to information on current frauds and methods to decrease personal riskrecipients follow the adviceDifficult to target elders at highest risk; fails to meet needs for interaction; cannot be individualized
16Enacting mandatory reporting laws Increases the likelihood that crimes will be reportedmandated reporters know how to detect abuse and understand the protocol for reporting; investigating agencies are sufficiently funded to respond to all reportsLack of follow-through tends to erode confidence in the system
17Bonding or registering telemarketers Requires telemarketing operations to provide assurance of legitimacy and good-faith intentionstelemarketers agree to follow all rules and regulationsRequires buy-in from offenders; provides false sense of good intentions; most consumers do not know to ask about bonding or registration
18Expanding existing statutes Provides enhanced penalties for crimes targeting the elderly; reduces rewardsoffenders are caught; restitution is ordered and enforcedNo general deterrence effect; does not help prevention efforts