Welcome to SAFE’s blog section! This is a place where we plan to share thoughts on what we do, how we do it, emerging issues in the field, and how you can get involved.
For our inaugural post, here’s a little bit about ourselves. Seniors Against Fraud and Exploitation (SAFE) has a singular and clear vision: to eliminate the financial exploitation of older adults. While there are many other great nonprofits serving older adults, we intend to fill an important gap as we perform our mission each day: using open source intelligence and statistical analysis to paint a clear and reliable picture of elder fraud in America.
So what does that mean exactly? Consider it from the perspective of the folks who came together to create SAFE. Our leadership includes former officials from the U.S. Department of Justice, FBI, CIA, and other agencies; lawyers who work with older adults on trusts, estates, and retirement issues; medical and behavioral health experts; and other professionals who serve older adults.
Those of us who come from law enforcement have long recognized elder fraud as a scourge of nearly epidemic proportions. In our professional lives, we would often gather evidence of fraudulent schemes targeting older Americans – romance scams, grandparent scams, magazine subscription scams, the gamut. And yet – for reasons we will discuss in subsequent posts – elder fraud scams often went uninvestigated, uncharged, and unpunished. At the very same time, our counterparts in legal services, medical and behavioral health, and other sectors both saw – and lamented – a similar pattern of inaction.
In our personal lives, elder fraud would also rear its head. Inevitably, we each would hear anecdotes about elder fraud – from friends who reported their parents and grandparents, exploited by unscrupulous salespeople or bilked of their savings through an internet-enabled scheme. And for some of us, elder fraud hit even closer to home, victimizing our own family members. The costs of this crime, we felt, were significant: emotional and personal as much as they were financial.
We knew our own experiences and collected anecdotes were meaningful. Individual stories can be moving. These stories also have the power to motivate us to action. But there’s one problem. Stories and anecdotes alone do not tell the whole story. Like a scene spied through a keyhole, they present a limited view within a narrow frame. They give you a picture, but not the whole picture. We found ourselves asking questions like: How much elder fraud is there really? Is it more prevalent in some parts of the country than others? What are the most common schemes? Is law enforcement doing enough to fight elder fraud? Who among our law enforcement partners is tackling this scourge the best and how do we replicate their methods?
These are all questions that cannot be answered through reference to isolated anecdotes and individual cases. These questions can only be answered through rigorous, principled methods. We firmly believe we owe it to older adults to try to answer these questions, and we plan to use the techniques fit for purpose: open source intelligence and rigorous, statistical analysis.
For us, this is no intellectual exercise. One of our values is clear communication. We plan to present our findings in highly engaging and accessible infographics. We hope to be a lively and active voice in defense of older adults. Please follow us on Twitter! We hope you will join us.