What To Do If Your Elderly Parent Is Being Scammed?

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy joined Raquel Micit and Ryan Miner on The Senior Soup Podcast to discuss senior scam prevention and adult children can help protect their elderly parents from scams.

Are you the son or daughter of a Montgomery County senior?

What would you do if your aging adult parent was scammed?

John McCarthy shares how the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s office works with Montgomery County senior organizations and senior living communities in Montgomery County to help recognize elder abuse and prevent elder abuse and scams before they happen.

This podcast offers a quick resource on what to do if your elderly parent is being scammed.

Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy joins The Senior Soup Podcast

Episode 3 Transcript: What To Do If Your Elderly Parent Is Being Scammed 

Raquel Micit  0:00  

Welcome to another episode of The Senior Soup!

My name is Raquel Micit.

I am the owner of Amada Senior Care, and I’m here with my co-host Ryan Miner, who works with Ennoble Care. 

The soup of the day is all about strategic planning and the education of seniors to prevent victimization.

The spotlight is on our very special guest, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy

Good morning, John!

John McCarthy  0:23

Good morning, Raquel. It’s great to be with you (and Ryan). 

Raquel Micit  0:25  

We are so honored to have you on today. 

Our platform involves senior advocacy and helping seniors stay safe so that they can continue to thrive wherever home may be. 

We know that you share the same goals with serving the Montgomery County senior populations.

Can we start it off by just walking us through how your office is an advocate for seniors? 

And what are some things you guys are doing out there?

John McCarthy  0:48

I’ll begin by just indicating that I have a personal, long-standing relationship with a number of continuing education programs in the county. 

Oasis is anchored at Montgomery mall that serves the senior community and also OSHA, which had an association with Johns Hopkins, which is now offering its live classes at the Black Rock Center in Germantown. 

I personally believe in education, and I believe that education can prevent victimization.

I think that is particularly true in the senior community.

I was well aware of when I started an individual specific specified, and specially trained unit to prosecute crimes that are committed against seniors that this is and remains the fastest-growing segment of the community in Montgomery county. 

We’re going to have about 230,000 seniors living in Montgomery County by the year 2030.

Raquel and Ryan

Wow, say that again, how many 

John McCarthy

We’re gonna have 230,000 individuals over the age of 65 living in Montgomery County by 2030.

It is the fastest-growing segment of the population in this community, reflective of national trends.

17,000 Americans turn 65 every single day and will for the next 20 years.

Ryan Miner  2:03  

Mr. State’s Attorney, glad you’re here – because our job as people who work in the senior health care industry and the senior care industry is to advocate for their best interest, and your team of prosecutors is always looking out for the best interest of our aging adult population. 

What you guys here at the State’s Attorney’s office do so well is, at times, recognize or intercept scammers before they even get in front of vulnerable seniors at Leisure Word, at Riderwood, and at places like Ingleside. 

My grandmother was called on the phone by someone whom she thought she recognized their voice. She’s 80 years old. And they stole money from her. It made me furious, John and Washington County prosecutors went after this whole network. 

How do you guys do it down here?

John McCarthy  2:45  

The main way we do it is, I’d say, twofold:

My goal is initially to prevent victimization. 

It’s much easier from my standpoint to educate at the front end rather than to try to solve a problem for a victim at the back end. 

And I do personally do these things dozens of times a year. 

I have probably, during the time that I’ve been State’s Attorney, made 300 unique and separate presentations to members of the senior committee – many of them through OSHA Oasis, but I’ve been at Ingleside, I’ve been at Leisure World, I’ve been in Asbury, I’ve been to Riderwood. I’ve been to Holiday City; I’ve been everywhere. 

And what we try to do is we do look at trends. 

Some trends are seasonal: IRS scams that may occur as we get closer to tax time. 

Sometimes you have traveler scams when people are coming in, maybe in the spring when people are doing gardening and cleaning around their house, and people are scamming them to repair their roofs or cut down trees that don’t need to be cut down for 1000s of dollars. 

We tried to educate people first on the things to look out for. 

Sometimes the scammers are actually in the homes of the seniors. 

If it’s a financial scam, about 90% of the time, the person who is scamming you or taking your money is probably related to you, in about 90% of the cases 

Raquel Micit  3:57  

Wow. 

John McCarthy  3:57  

In other instances, we invite people in by picking up the phone. 

We invite people in by being subjected to phishing scams on the internet. 

We try to train people how to spot phishing scams on the internet. 

We teach them about how they use rogue emails that look like it’s Capital One Bank, but maybe they add an “S” or a symbol to it, and we tell them don’t open the email; contact the bank directly. 

We talked to them about a variety of things they can do to protect themselves against the most common scams in the community. 

If they are victims, we have specialized prosecutors. 

I have specialized trained prosecutors that do financial crimes. And then we have others that do physical abuse, neglect, and sexual crimes against seniors – different skills.

Ryan Miner  4:39  

All tough subjects, obviously. 

And knowing that this resource is in place and understanding from an advocacy standpoint how to stop it and how to prevent it. 

But, if it does happen, we know your office has their backs. 

You guys are really getting out there.

John McCarthy  4:53  

The way we make ourselves a safer community is through public education. 

The senior generation is among our greatest generations that we’ve had in the history of this country, and they are trusting, loving people. 

And I think, as a result, scammers know that, and they’re trusting that they can manipulate you online, get you to be polite. 

We’re teaching such basic skills as ‘Why are you answering the phone if you don’t recognize the phone number?” 

Don’t answer the phone, so they don’t have access to you. 

If it’s somebody that loves you, they’re gonna send you a text, they’re gonna send you a message; they’ll get back in touch with you. 

Don’t answer a phone number you don’t know. 

Because the do not call lines and things like that. 

Ryan Miner  5:27  

That doesn’t always…

John McCarthy  5:28  

They don’t work at all.  

Ryan Miner  5:29  

Raquel doesn’t answer my text messages sometimes.

Raquel Micit  5:32  

Only when it’s late, and I’m a little grumpy, or after a long day. 

I’m curious, how do you guys become aware of the latest scams? 

Because I imagine that there are common ones, but then there are new, innovative scams.

John McCarthy  5:46  

Sometimes it’s because we’ve actually had reports made to us, and we begin to see patterns.

Sometimes it’s because we go out into the community, and maybe a group at Leisure World will approach me and tell me something happening to large numbers of people at an individual community level, using Leisure World as an example. 

I would also say that not every problem where someone is targeted as a senior can be solved criminally. 

We have a tremendously close relationship with the Consumer Protection Agency, that is headed by Eric Friedman. 

And we work in concert with one another, because there are multiple ways for us to attack issues that threaten our seniors, whether it’s through the consumer protection agency, whether it’s through prosecution here. 

And we also work with licensing agencies. 

If it’s home health care nurses and things like that. These are marvelous people that help a lot of people. 

But to make sure that the people that you’re inviting into your home through one of these agencies have been checked out and criminally verified as being safe.

Ryan Miner  6:40

 You could speak on that. 

Raquel Micit  6:41 

 Yeah!

Ryan Miner  6:42  

You go through that process daily.

Raquel Micit  6:43  

We vet our caregivers. 

We go above and beyond what the state requires. 

We don’t just do a state background check; we do a federal background check. 

We reference them. It can be more expensive to hire a caregiver through an agency, but that’s why you do it – to help prevent being in crisis mode in situations where you could get yourself caught in a bad spot.

John McCarthy  7:04

 I think it’s wonderful that you do you do background checks and criminal background checks because I know from the experiences that we’ve had here that not all agencies do that. 

When you hire through an agency, I think there is an assumption in the general public that agencies do criminal history background checks on their employees. 

You do that; not everyone does. 

That’s one of our cautionary tales. If you’re gonna bring somebody into your home, ask the agency that you’re hiring the individual through,  “How comprehensive are your background checks.” 

I think that’s vitally important.

Ryan Miner  7:32  

Not just a state but also a federal background check because they could have lived in another state.

Raquel Micit  7:37

 It happens, you guys, I’ve seen it. 

And also, we help them train to keep a lookout for potential scams when they are with our seniors. So that’s really important too!

Ryan Miner  7:47

Question for both of you: You (Raquel) see it from the business side to keep seniors safe, and you’re interfacing directly with them. 

And then John, of course, from a governmental public safety perspective. 

What should families ask for when they have someone coming into their home? Raquel, what do you look for in a background to say,  ‘this might not be an ideal candidate to serve our clients?’

Raquel Micit  8:09

I can tell you, even before the background check goes through, I have a very frank conversation and say, ‘Hey, is there anything that you think I’ll find on the background check?’ 

Because if I do, it’s okay. We all make mistakes, we’ll talk about it. 

Unfortunately, there’s theft. 

If there’s violence or any red flags, we cannot move forward. We want to provide a service of a certain quality and protection, to be quite honest.Ryan Miner  8:34

 Some agencies may not be as thorough as Amada Senior Care. 

And it’s really important that when we have someone in our home, that we trust them and that we know that they’re there to also serve seniors’ best interests.

John McCarthy  8:45

 I have some internal investigators here that follow white collar crime cases against seniors.

Dan Wortman, who works for me, was the former Chief of Police down in Tacoma Park, said to me, ‘Would you please add this to your presentation? Make sure people are warned on the importance of checking out the people they’re inviting into their homes.’

Ryan Miner  9:03

Is there any pending county legislation or legislation at the Montgomery County level or even the state level that seniors should know about that impacts them?

John McCarthy  9:11

I don’t know what’s on the agenda for the next legislative session. 

I am a member of the legislative committee for the State’s Attorneys Association for Maryland 

Ryan Miner  9:21  

Cannabis?

John McCarthy  9:22

I can tell you a lot about marijuana. That is dominating the conversation. 

Ryan Miner  9:26

 Seniors have a lot of questions, John.

John McCarthy  9:28

I think we are on the cusp of voters in the state of Maryland having an opportunity as to whether or not they’re in favor of legalization of personal amounts of marijuana. 

If the polls are accurate, we are going to legalize in November, and then the key is going to be how we’re going to distribute those licenses because there’s a lot of conversation in Annapolis about doing that along equitable lines. 

Because I actually think this is good legislation, believe it or not, and I think it’s good legislation for two reasons: 

One is the last 14 drug-related homicides in Montgomery County that have been over marijuana. 

I also think that there is a lot of demand for handguns in the distribution of drugs. I think we can reduce the demand for handguns and ghost guns, in particular, and reduce homicides. 

But the state can’t get greedy. 

They can’t overtax it – to the extent that it’s so expensive in the state stores, the black market remains. If they do that, they’re going to be destroying one of the great things that we could be achieving with this legalization effort. 

Ryan Miner  10:28  

I think we covered a lot today. 

I’m excited to share this with our senior network. 

People need to know that public safety is on their side, that public servants like John, who every day wakes up and thinks about how do I protect this community, that he has their backs. 

John, I’m glad you came on. Thanks for doing this; it’s a nice fall morning!

John McCarthy  10:47

Well, it’s an honor to be with you. 

And look, I think we’re always looking for people to be partners with us in protecting the senior community. 

And my favorite number is zero.

If I did not have a senior that came to me who was a victim of a financial fraud or a victim of some form of abuse or neglect, I would be a very successful prosecutor. 

If I could just say one other warning to the senior community: Only 4% of cases related to crimes against seniors are reported by the seniors themselves. 

96% of the case we get – it’s third-party reporters. 

So one of the challenges to people in the community, whether you remember the senior committee or not, we got to look out for each other. 

We’ve got to be communal about this. 

If you’re in the senior community, look out for each other. 

If you are watching over a senior, make sure that more than one person is looking at the books, or make sure that when it comes to your finances, more than one person is seeing the financial records and your accounts. 

When one person alone is a control, it is ripe for abuse and fraud. 

Ryan Miner  11:40

That’s great advice. John.

Raquel Micit  11:41  

Thank you so much. 

I think he was spot on and that we’re all in this together. 

It’s not just on our seniors.

On that note, I think that’s a wrap. Right, Ryan?

Ryan Miner  11:49

I think that’s a wrap. 

We’re gonna catch up again on some other topics. 

And I hope you come back.

John McCarthy  11:53  

I would love to come back, and I wish you well. 

I think this is a very important community message to protect our seniors.

Ryan Miner  11:59

Thank you so much! 

Raquel Micit  12:00

 Thanks so much!

Raquel Micit and Ryan Miner host The Senior Soup Podcast

The Senior Soup Podcast 

This is Episode 3 of The Senior Soup Podcast.

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