WILKES-BARRE - While U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) was conducting a teleconference on the increase in elder abuse and scams targeting older people, Diane Scigala was listening to state Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon) talk about concerns over privatizing the state lottery and other fiscal issues.
But clearly, Scigala would have appreciated hearing Casey's topic, which cited an increase in reports of elder abuse, including nearly 900 in Luzerne County between 2010 and 2011.
To combat this trend, Casey announced recently he will launch a new central Web resource to protect seniors from abuse and scams. Living in Luzerne County are 57,595 people age 65 and older, which represents about 18 percent of the 320,918 population.
"Our older Pennsylvanians have fought in our wars, worked in our factories and taught our children. Fraud against seniors is a cowardly crime," Casey said. "I'm introducing this Web resource page on my website so Pennsylvania's two million seniors and caretakers have an easy, central place to find information and connect with agencies that can give them the help they need."
Scigala, 65, of Hazleton, asked Yudichak how she can find reputable contractors to perform work on her home. She said her house needs a new roof and some painting.
Scigala said she was the victim of a scam some 17 years ago. She said she lost "a lot of money" that was saved for her children's college educations.
"I want to be sure when I hire someone that it won't happen again," she said.
To help make information about elder abuse, fraud and scams more readily available, Casey has launched the resource page: www.casey.senate.gov/issues/seniors/scams.
"Sometimes the best prevention and response is having good information on ways they can be protected," he said.
He said only one in 14 cases of elder abuse is actually reported because seniors sometimes don't know where to turn.
Casey's office released data that showed:
In 2010-11, the Area Agencies on Aging in Pennsylvania received 18,129 reports of abuse, which is an increase from the 11,962 reports in 2006-07.
In 2010-11, the state Department of Aging found that 15.3 percent of substantiated abuse cases involved financial abuse or exploitation, 37.5 percent involved self-neglect and 26.9 percent were caregiver neglect.
Older Americans are less likely to report fraud and abuse. The may not realize they have been scammed, they may be ashamed of what has happened or they don't know how to report the incident.