COLUMN: Seniors must be aware of those looking to exploit them

Published 4:58 pm Friday, May 19, 2023

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Part one of five in a series

“Knowledge is power,” is one of the famous quotes, I remember, that’s attributed to English statesman and philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626). 

If knowledge is power, then it provides information leading to education. It creates changes and reforms. It is a vital force that can save lives. Money and property, too. Indeed, it can be influential, inspiring, and liberating to a point that we’re empowered to be proactive, to be of help to others, to make a difference in the lives of others and to the world.

Knowing something we learned from an experience and sharing it with others can be powerful and productive. It can bring positive results in the lives of some, if not many. Hence, I’d like to share with you the following topic or information, which I’m sure you’ve heard about but didn’t pay much attention to. 

Exploitation. Fraud. Abuse. Scams. Thefts. What subject do they have in common? Or, who is vulnerable or prone to be affected the most in our society? 

My wife Freny, who retired last year from teaching chemistry in public high schools in Hampton Roads, has recently attended a regular lunch meeting with fellow retired Hampton educators. As usual, she brought me to their lunch meeting knowing that I am an advocate of education and for teachers and students.

Being a regular “guest” to their meetings, I got used to becoming familiar with a number of the association’s members and the current president, Joan. Likewise, I have had the opportunity to learn new things, meet people, and have a good time.

Besides having catered luncheon, general meeting, updating members what the association’s status is and its projects, and playing bingo with the St. Patrick’s Day theme, one of the highlights of the retired educator’s meeting was having an invited guest speaker, a certified financial planner, Oscar Alvarez, who spoke about issues affecting the financial well being of older adults, particularly the elderly or senior citizens.

Given a particular time limit to speak to the retired educators, about 15-20 minutes, Alvarez of Pathway Financial Planning Inc., discussed briefly about financial exploitation, with his objective for the retired educators to be aware and to recognize and reduce the risk of financial exploitation that has been called “the crime of the 21st Century.” 

Anyone can be the victim of financial exploitation, he said. Financial exploitation crosses all social, educational, and economic boundaries. And so he went on with his talk. Being a listener there, I took notes and did read and research about the topic which is relevant and applicable to us older adults, seniors or elderly citizens, and veterans.

What is elder financial fraud or exploitation? It is the fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper act or process of an individual that uses the resources of an older person for personal benefit, profit or gain.  It is an action that results in depriving an older person of rightful access to, or use of benefits, resources, belongings, or assets.

This “epidemic” is under the radar. The cases tend to be very complex and can be difficult to investigate and prosecute. Elders who lose their life savings usually have little or no opportunity to regain what they have lost. 

Elder financial exploitation can result in the loss of the ability to live independently. It can also result in a decline in health, broken trust, and fractured families.

CHRIS A. QUILPA, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk, Chesapeake and Portsmouth. Email him at