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Michigan Department of Human Services, partners outline steps for preventing financial exploitation of older Michiganians

Contact: Gisgie Dávila Gendreau, DHS marketing and public relations director, 517-373-7394

June 24, 2009

GRAND RAPIDS - To commemorate Older Michiganians Day, a panel of experts - including a Michigan Department of Human Services authority on elder abuse - discussed Wednesday how older adults can protect themselves from financial exploitation.

One in five older adults has been abused, neglected or exploited, said Cynthia Farrell, administrator of DHS Adult Services. A DHS adult abuse toll-free hotline - 800-996-6228 - received more than 1,400 referrals for financial exploitation last year.

"When abuse is documented in an investigation, we can help victims put stop-gap measures in place to protect them," Farrell said. "That could mean revoking a family member's power of attorney, filing an alert with a credit card company or filing a police complaint."

Hosted by the Grandville Senior Neighbors Center, the event also featured representatives from the Kent County sheriff's department, Legal Aid of Western Michigan and Kent County prosecutor's office.

"An event highlighting elder abuse couldn't be timelier," Michael Chielens, executive director of Legal Aid of Western Michigan noted. "Legal Aid can be of assistance to senior citizens in these awful situations by obtaining civil relief and damages against individuals taking advantage of vulnerable adults," he said.

Assistant Prosecutor Chris Becker called financial exploitation "one of the most underreported crimes in the country." He lauded event partners for holding the event to bring attention to this type of crime.

Panelists said many of those who take advantage of people in their senior years are family members. Financial exploitation comes in many forms: children may write checks to themselves out of a parent's account, empty out a savings account or use a credit card without permission.

Some signs to look for include missing bank cards, valuables that disappear without an explanation and "lost" checkbooks, Farrell said. She said citizens should be aware of financial exploitation and ready to report it whenever they see or suspect it.

"Our work on this front is part of the Department of Human Services mission to protect the state's vulnerable children, adults and families," Farrell said.

For more information, please visit the DHS Web site at


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