What is elder abuse?
The Mississippi Vulnerable Adults Act identifies elder abuse as “the willful infliction of physical pain, injury or mental anguish on a vulnerable adult; the unreasonable confinement of a vulnerable adult; or the willful deprivation by a caretaker of services which are necessary to maintain the mental and physical health of a vulnerable adult.”
Elder abuse tends to take place where the senior lives: most often in the home where abusers are apt to be adult children; other family members such as grandchildren; or spouses/partners of elders. Institutional settings such as long-term care facilities can also be sources of elder abuse.
Reporting elder abuse
Report abuse of vulnerable adults living in the following settings to the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS):
- a private home setting (i.e., in his/her own home or the home of another person)
- an unlicensed personal care home with three (3) or fewer residents unrelated to the operator
- a home setting that does not require a license to operate under the Mississippi State Department of Health’s guidelines (i.e., boarding home)
Reports may be made to the MDHS toll-free Child/Vulnerable Adult Abuse/Neglect Hotline at 1-800-222-8000 or 601-359-4991 or to the local county Division of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) where the vulnerable adult resides. Reports received by DFCS are electronically transmitted to the Division of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS), Adult Protective Services regional supervisor for further handling.
Report abuse occurring within licensed care facilities (i.e., nursing homes, personal care homes) or unlicensed personal care homes with 4 or more residents unrelated to the operator to the Mississippi State Department of Health, at 1-800-227-7308 or the Office of the Attorney General, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, at 1-800-852-8341.
Adult Protective Services are required to initiate an investigation within 48 hours of a report. In an emergency, report cases of abuse to 911 or local law enforcement.
Financial Abuse- Scams and Frauds
Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies substantiate more cases of financial abuse than physical abuse of seniors each year. Financial abuse, fraud, and exploitation against the elderly and vulnerable adults are often perpetuated by a relative or trusted caregiver. Financial institutions are often the first to recognize abuse and report suspected cases to APS.
Examples of financial abuse include mismanaging money, stealing property, savings, credit cards, unusual activity in bank and or securities accounts, and misuse of assets by a representative payee. Suspected abuse in home settings or unlicensed facilities (e.g. unlicensed boarding homes) should be reported to your local office of the Department of Human Services (DHS) or to the Child/Adult Abuse Hotline, at 1-800-222-8000. Suspected abuse occurring within licensed care facilities (nursing home, personal care homes) should be reported to the Department of Health, 1-800-277-7308 and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in the Office of the State Attorney General, 1-800-852-8341. Anonymous reports are accepted and should you provide your name the Department of Human Services maintains the confidentiality of the reporter’s name. DHS investigations are initiated within 24-48 hours of a report. Reports can be made to local law enforcement as well.
Erroneous and abusive sales tactics have been reported in connection with the sales and marketing of some Medicare- related Part C and D plans. Medicare recipients have been enrolled in these plans without fully understanding the terms of the plan and, in some instances, without even knowing they have been enrolled. Suspected Medicare scam cases should be reported to the Mississippi Insurance Department at 1-800-359-3569. Additional information on these scams can be found at the following website:
Identity theft is the fastest growing white-collar crime in America and older adults may be particularly vulnerable. The following advice is provided by the Mississippi Attorney General’s office to victims of identity theft:
- “Contact your local police department and file a report of the theft. Obtain a copy of the report for your records and to assist in clearing your name.
- Contact any creditors of the accounts that you believe have been corrupted or fraudulently opened. Ask to speak with the fraud or security department and inform them of the theft. Immediately close any existing accounts and open a new account that is protected by a unique Personal Identification Number (PIN) and/or password. (Avoid using information that is easily available for your PIN/password. This includes your birthdate, the last four digits of your SSN, your mother’s maiden name, and a consecutive series of numbers.) Follow up the call with a letter.
- Contact the fraud department of one of the three major credit bureaus (see toll free numbers below). Inform them that you are an identity theft victim and that you wish to place a fraud alert on your file, as well as a victim’s statement requesting a call to you by the credit bureaus before opening or changing credit accounts. Also, request a copy of your credit report. As a result of this one request, all three major credit bureaus will send you a copy of your credit report.
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or call the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline. 1-877- IDTHEFT (438-4338).
- Print and complete an Identity Theft Affidavit. Once you've completed the ID Theft Affidavit, gather the following documents: a copy of any documents relating to your identity theft including collection letters, police reports and credit reports; proof of residency (electric, gas or phone bill, etc.) at the time the theft occurred; and a photo ID. It is imperative that you complete the ID Theft Affidavit and return it along with supporting documents to the address below so a criminal investigation may be initiated.”
Office of the Attorney General
Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 22947
Jackson, MS 39225-2947
Telephone 601-359-4230 or 1-800-281-4418
It is a good practice to check your credit report annually; the report can provide indications that your identity has, in fact been stolen. You are entitled to one free annual report; information on that process can be found on line at www.annualcreditreport.com. (Some of the “free” credit report services advertised on television may not be free, but include a monthly membership fee.)
If, however, you already suspect that your identity has been stolen then, as stated above, you must contact the fraud division of one of the following major credit bureaus: