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Health beat: Could doctors diagnose fraud?

  • Article by: Dan Browning
  • Star Tribune
  • June 15, 2013 - 5:01 PM

 

 

A confluence of dementia, accumulated wealth and con artists threatens aging baby boomers like no generation of retirees before them — and medical personnel are uniquely positioned to intervene but need additional training to do it.

That was the finding of a recent online survey of 604 doctors and nurses conducted by the nonprofit Investor Protection Trust, a 10-year-old investor education group. The organization cited a 2008 study that found that about 35 percent of people over age 71 in the United States have mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease.

Nine out of 10 doctors and nurses responding to the survey said cognitive impairments of old age often put seniors in the cross hairs of fraud artists. Eight out of 10 said they thought they could play an important role in spotting financial exploitation among seniors. Yet more than half said they had little to no direct experience dealing with elderly victims of financial crimes.

Sixty-one percent said they would be interested in continuing medical education (CME) credits from courses designed to help them spot scams against older patients, and 84 percent said they’d be willing to refer patients to authorities for help.

Fraud spotting is not your typical CME course. But William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul held a daylong symposium Friday, designated as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, that included a session on preventing investment fraud against the elderly. The Minnesota Departments of Commerce and Human Services participated.

State Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, one of the speakers, noted that seniors control nearly 70 percent of the nation’s wealth, making them attractive targets for fraud.

Minnesota has its share of crooks willing to exploit them. Convicted fraudster Trevor Cook bilked more than 700 investors, mostly retirees, out of $194 million. And the state is known for crooked telemarketers who pitch coins to seniors.

Doctors and nurses, who spot so many warning signs for elderly patients, could be recruited to spot a few more.

 

dan.browning@startribune.com

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