By Helen Rippier Wheeler,
Friday January 03, 2014 - 08:15:00 AM

Ralph E. Stone’s December 16th Planet column, “Eclectic rant: Protect yourself from scams this holiday season,” was right on. And I would add, especially senior citizens and year-round and everywhere. As a former Federal Trade Commission attorney and currently a volunteer for Consumer Action and Seven On Your Side, the consumer hotline for ABC-TV Channel 7, he has heard a wide range of scams that separated unsuspecting consumers from their money, especially during the holiday season. 

In many cases, charlatans pretending to represent a securities company approach the senior citizen who may have family but is living alone. Invasion of an elder’s home is not considered elder abuse. Many forms of elder abuse are recognized as types of domestic violence. It does not include general criminal activity against older persons, such as home break-ins, muggings in the street or distraction burglary, where a stranger distracts an older person at the doorstep while another person enters the property to steal. 

Stone describes a number of scams consumers should be aware of and things consumers can do to protect themselves. Financial scamming of a senior citizen is elder abuse. Most investment cheaters aim at older people because many senior citizens have the characteristics they are looking for-- sizeable savings accounts and the inclination to trust effortlessly. Investment fraud (also called brokerage fraud) usually occurs when an advisor, a brokerage firm, or a stockbroker advises a client against the rules and regulations as decided by the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

Never sign any document without the presence of a legal representative you trust, particularly if you are not learned in legalese and technical documentation. Especially if you are reluctant to hire a lawyer, you should do your homework in advance. Fraudulent companies use the fine print of their contracts and agreements to deceive you. The most common trick is use of so-called Prime Bank Instruments. 


In Japan, fraud cases targeting the elderly are rapidly increasing. By 2060, 40+% of the population is expected to be over age 65. Falling birth rates, almost no net immigration, one of the highest life expectancies in the world -- 81.25 years of age as of 2006 – make Nihon the world's tenth most populated country. (The expected life span at the end of World War II, for both males and females, was 50 years.) The aging of Japan is thought to outweigh all other nations, as the country is purported to have the highest proportion of elderly citizens; more than 20% are over the age of 65 today. This aging of the Japanese population was brought about by a combination of low fertility and low mortality. Since the late 1970s, the average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime has been fewer than 2. Family planning was nearly universal, with condoms and abortions the main forms of legal contraception.  

The leading causes of death are cancer, heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease, a pattern common to industrialized societies. As in other nations (to varying degrees), nursing home facilities and nursing care are fraught with problems. A fire in 2009 at a nursing home in Shibukawa, Gunma Prefecture claimed 10 residents’ lives. The Maebashi District Court sentenced a former director of the facility to two years' imprisonment after finding him guilty of professional negligence resulting in death. At the time of the blaze, only one caretaker was on duty, the ruling said. Both the Japan Times ("Making senior facilities safer" February 19, 2013) and Yomiuri Shimbun ("Ruling should serve as warning for better nursing care facilities" Tokyo, January 21, 2013) editorialized.  

Nine months later, the Japan Times reported that the ministry was going to “push nursing robots to aid caregivers” (November 26, 2013).  



Medicare has begun tracking the outcomes of hip and knee replacement surgeries by identifying 95 hospitals where elderly patients were more likely to suffer significant setbacks, experiencing difficulties after the operation. Of the 9 hospitals having both high readmissions and high complication rates, none was in California, 4 were in the South. 

The government also named 97 hospitals where patients tended to have the smoothest recoveries and the hospitals did better than average in avoiding either readmissions or complications. The 25 were rated as being better at both measures included some big hospitals such as Sutter General Hospital in Sacramento, California.  

Here’s a reminder: Medicare has a “hospitals compare” website. You can select up to 3 at a time.