A wealth of information and free tacos awaited Oakmonters who dropped by the Berger Center parking lot June 15 for a multi-agency event focused on preventing elder abuse. Led by Dist. Atty. Jill Ravitch, the one-stop resource included representatives of the Family Justice Center, Legal Aid, Council on Aging, Santa Rosa Police Department and Adult Protective Services.
Online COVID scams, such as asking people to verify their vaccinations, have skyrocketed recently in the opinion of Carla Rodriquez, chief deputy of the Elder Protection Agency.
“Isolation is a big concern because you don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors,” she said. Rodriquez cautioned seniors to hang up the phone. “Do not to give out personal information to anyone no matter how convincing or how urgent they sound or what they say.”
Santa Rosa had 5,761 cases of elder abuse, according to Marsha Lucien, executive director of the Family Justice Center of Sonoma County which has multiple services under its roof at 2755 Mendocino Avenue. Also on hand at the event were two black labs who are made available to anyone having to appear in court as a “comfort animal.”
“Financial abuse is pretty common,” according to Crista Barnett Nelson, executive director of Senior Advocacy Services based in Petaluma. Seconding that view was Marcus Otero, Oakmont’s Wells Fargo Bank manager, who said he reports abuses of customer accounts at least weekly usually involving wire fraud or requests to transfer funds.
“People should not be afraid of online banking,” Otero stressed. “If you don’t have an online profile, you’re vulnerable to having a scammer create one for you.”
Among the Oakmont residents who attended was a victim of theft by her housekeeper and another woman who was seeking advice on how to handle a situation involving a woman with memory problems living alone in her sub-HOA.
Others took advantage of the opportunity to drive by in their cars and pick up goodie bags containing a flashlight with batteries, whistle, an EZ gripper jar opener, informational packets on the Senior Medicare Patrol and other resources. A “Smarter than a Scammer” guide identified the most common scams as well as red flags, such as insisting you wire money
as soon as possible, demands to act now, telling you not to tell family or friends and promising you can win or make money easily.
Extra goodie bags are available at Wells Fargo Bank in Oakmont.