At the Puyallup Activity Center, senior services assistant Trudi Bocott hears story after story about elder abuse, many involving fraud and ID theft.
Earlier this month, a Puyallup woman plead guilty to stealing $82,000 from a relative with dementia — just one example of an elder abuse case in the area.
“Every month, I have a meeting (and) I always bring up scams that I’m aware of,” Bocott said.
From emails to phone calls, even texts, Bocott said she’s heard it all. Some share stories of messages from people who claim to be from banks, the Internal Revenue Service and jury duty. In one case, Bocott said a fraudulent email targeted grandparents, claiming their grandchildren in California were in jail and in trouble. Some of the seniors she knows have grandchildren in California.
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“They’re very specific,” Bocott said about the fraudulent messages. “It breaks my heart that (seniors) let themselves get so upset. Seniors never spoke up before, because they’re embarrassed. Now they’re more vocal and saying, ‘You can’t do this anymore.’”
In honor of Crime Prevention Month this October, Bocott teamed up with Crime Prevention coordinator Lisa Isaacs from the Puyallup Police Department to invite Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist to speak on elder abuse.
“Elders are a vulnerable population,” Lindquist said. “Our focus is on how we can work together to effectively prosecute elder abuse cases and prevent (them).”
There’s an overlap between elder abuse cases and identify theft cases, Lindquist said, but his main focus will be on prosecution and prevention.
“Elder abuse is a criminal issue,” he said. “Elder abuse is also a community awareness issue, and protecting the community is also educating the community.”
Along with Lindquist, a spokesperson from the Elder Abuse Unit will be present. The Elder Abuse Unit, which was launched in 2010, has expanded from one deputy prosecutor to two deputy prosecutors, two victim advocates and a legal assistant. In addition, Pierce County was recently awarded a grant for $370,985 with the purpose of addressing elder abuse.
“It’s a move in the right direction that we’re seeing increases in reports of elder abuse,” Lindquist said. “Because we’re raising community awareness, more cases are being reported. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s more of it, but that we know how to identify it.”
Lindquist hopes to expand that awareness with his presentation, which will take place at 12:30 p.m. Monday (Oct. 24) at the Puyallup Activity Center, 210 W Pioneer Ave., Puyallup.