Jill Ravitch, Sonoma County's District Attorney presented a program on Elder Abuse in Sonoma County.
Jill Ravitch, Sonoma County's District Attorney presented a program on Elder Abuse in Sonoma County.
Jill is the first female District Attorney in Sonoma County, serving in that position since her election in 2010. She has also helped to establish the Family Justice Center, which consolidates services for victims of abuse, fraud and predation in Sonoma County. Their services include governmental, law enforcement and nonprofit organizations.
The population of Sonoma County, as well as the rest of society, is aging rapidly. Although now outnumbered by Millennials, the Boomer population continues to expand and currently has a life expectancy of over 84 years. Elderly people are at increased risk of abuses that include physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial exploitation, passive and active neglect, abandonment and self-neglect. Everybody in society needs to be vigilant for signs of these types of abuse and needs to feel comfortable with reporting them to the appropriate agencies.
Neglect and physical abuse constitute approximately 70% of all cases in the county, with financial abuse currently at 12% but increasing very rapidly. Females are abused more frequently than males, often by adult children or other family members. Seniors now constitute greater than 20% of our society and 35% of our seniors are disabled in one way or another, making them particularly vulnerable to victimization.
Adult Protective Services (APS) is an agency of the county government. It is not a law enforcement agency, but is rather a place where concerns may be expressed which will lead frequently to an investigation. Most of the cases of abuse are committed by someone known to the victim. The workload for this agency has nearly doubled in the past five years.
Jill presented several questions and answers about how to avoid scamming which is one of the most important areas that affects seniors.
1. Information by scammers is obtained through purse snatching, mail theft, dumpster diving email fishing and unsolicited telephone calls.
2. You should never carry your Social Security card on your person. Memorize the number.
3. Investment in credit card  "protection” is unnecessary. Never carry more credit cards on your person and you actually need (usually only one).
4. Older adults are the primary targets of telemarketing fraud. All people should be taught to hang up on unsolicited calls, or to let unidentified calls go to voicemail so you can determine whether or not it was someone who actually wanted to talk with you. Telemarketers do not leave messages.
5. Playing sweepstakes is a good way to get your name out there to be put on sucker lists for fraud scams. Avoid doing this at all costs.
6. Do not trust door-to-door sales people, particularly if they are offering a service that seems "helpful" but which was not solicited by you.
7. Do not let would be utility or city employees into your home unless you have previously called and requested a service. City employees never make random calls.
8.  Most investment fraud is conducted by long-term, trusted advisors. Keep a high index of suspicion.
10. If you have other people conducting your financial affairs through a power of attorney or other arrangement, review all of your statements or have another, independent trusted person, do that for you.
To help protect against financial fraud, and to rapidly investigate suspected instances of this crime, the District Attorney has established a FAST team (Fraud Abuse Specialist Team) that investigates reported cases. A great deal of work is required for these investigations, and this particular unit relies heavily on volunteers. They are looking for volunteers with experience in finance, insurance and real estate.
They have also developed the Sonoma County Elder Justice Coalition that helps with these matters and that helps to coordinate investigation, provision of services, and reporting to the appropriate authorities if laws are being broken. Club members should visit their website for a detailed synopsis of what services are offered.  www.socoelderprotect.org
The District Attorney's Office, along with community volunteers, have also developed an innovative program, Family Justice Center of Sonoma County that provides advocacy, law enforcement and other assistance services to people who are victims of all forms of abuse. They are always looking for volunteers to help coordinate these services. Their work is coordinated through several agencies throughout the county including the YWCA, Verity, Council on Aging, Intertribal Council, Legal Aid, Catholic Charities and DA Victim Services. Their website is www.FJCSC.org .
Photographs of most of the slides from Ms. Ravich’s presentation are in the photos that are associated with this meeting.