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Crimes against seniors a 'silent epidemic'

Wednesday - 6/5/2013, 1:36pm  ET

WASHINGTON - An insidious trend is leading to American senior citizens being increasingly targeted by malicious, criminal activity.

"Crimes against seniors generally in the United States have increased 19.6 percent since the year 200," explains Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy.

"Fifty-four percent of the time nationally that a senior is exploited, it's a family member that's exploiting them," McCarthy says.

McCarthy and other local officials will highlight the problem next week in Silver Spring for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

"This is a real issue for us," McCarthy says.

Two of the more prevalent scams involve someone calling an elderly person and claiming to be a family member stuck overseas in need of money.

The second is a hacking scheme in which the criminal seeks financial information while claiming to be a banking institution.

"This is a growing problem. All forms of abuse from neglect, financial exploitation," says Jay Kenney, chief of Aging and Disability Services with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services.

"It's called a silent epidemic," Kenney says.

One potential remedial step involves a communal effort to keep seniors from being easy targets.

"Unlike children where they go to school and are seen by teachers and by others, seniors can often be isolated or not seen that often," Kenney explains.

Kenney urges family members and neighbors to ensure senior citizens are as active as they can be, remaining socially and civically engaged as they reach their later years.

"Just where they're not isolated and therefore not prone to being taken advantage of," says Kenney.

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