How businesses can help
The invisible crıme
By Sally Abrahms
EIGHTY;SIX;YEAR;OLD Cliff Carlson was
in a Seattle grocery store when he was approached by Yana Schinman. The 33-year-old
started laying on the charm. She walked the
widower to his car, took a long look at his
beloved Buick and asked where he lived.
Then she started “bumping” into him. Within
two months, she convinced Carlson that she
was in love with him.
Flattered and lonely, Carlson rented an
apartment for Schinman, who claimed she
needed it for a bogus business; doled out
$30,000 for a second made-up venture; and
signed over his car. The icing on the cake?
Schinman took him to Reno, where they got
married (with no physical relationship). She
had hoped to clean Carlson (his name has
been changed by request) out of other assets,
but was arrested before she could, and charged
with conning two other elderly men.
During her spree, she took her “marks” to
Nordstrom, Cartier and a Mercedes-Benz
dealership. At Nordstrom, she opened a joint
credit-card account with one of her cognitively
impaired victims, then purchased scads of
designer clothes without looking at sizes or
prices. At Cartier, she opened a line of credit in
the victim’s name; the confused man couldn’t
remember his address and phone number, so
Schinman supplied it, pointing out the jewelry
she wanted to buy once it was approved.
BUSINESSES CAN PLAY a part in guarding elders against financial abuse,
according to Page Ulrey of the King
County Prosecutor’s Office in Seattle.
While the following simple warning
signs, taken individually, may not be
significant, when more than one
occurs, businesses should become
skeptical. When in doubt, report it.
• An elder is brought into a store
or business by someone younger who
insists on completing the transaction
• The person accompanying the
elder claims to have recently obtained
power of attorney or guardianship over
the elder, become joint account holder
or to have recently married the elder.
• An older person seems disengaged from the transaction, doesn’t
follow what’s going on or acts scared
• A transaction is inconsistent with
the older person’s spending patterns
or does not seem to be in the elder’s
If you believe that an elder is being
exploited, call 911. In addition, contact
Adult Protective Services (APS). APS
offers services and takes action to protect elders from abuse and exploitation.
Locate the number for your local APS
online by searching for “Adult Protective
Services” and the name of your county.
The Costco Connection
Costco offers an identity-theft protection
service through Identity Guard, which can
help monitor credit activity. Visit Costco.com
and click on “Services.”
Looking at the “invisible” crime
According to a recent MetLife Mature
Market Institute report, elders lose at least
$2.6 billion a year to financial abuse.
Financial elder abuse is a growing racket that
affects all socioeconomic groups and eth-nicities; this past spring the family of a retired
Massachusetts judge claimed he was duped.
Some experts have dubbed financial elder
abuse the invisible crime because just 15 percent of cases are reported to police—some
victims never realize they’ve been taken, and
cognitive deficits may make them unable to
credibly testify—and, at least in the past, many
perpetrators have received soft sentences.
“Today, we’re decades behind in dealing
with financial elder abuse compared to domestic violence and sexual assault,” maintains
Costco member Page Ulrey, the prosecutor
on the Schinman case.
That may change since President Obama
signed the Elder Justice Act in March as part of
healthcare reform designed to prevent, detect
and support prosecution of elder abuse
through training and research. Community
awareness initiatives should also help.
SEPTEMBER 2010 ;e Costco Connection 21
Causes behind abuse
A weak economy is putting stress on
many struggling, sometimes financially des-