I’m happy to introduce to you a guest writer who is one of my favorite people in the world! My little brother, Brian, has been a sheriff for almost my whole adult life. I have always been so proud of him, and knew him to be a kind and fair peace officer, but I didn’t know what an engaging and gifted speaker he is until I had the opportunity to hear him speak a couple of weeks ago. The following post is the text of an article he wrote and distributed on June 15, when he spoke at an event for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. (I will put Brian’s professional bio, and e-mail information at the end of this post so that you can contact him if you’d like him to speak to your group.)
The Golden Years – By William Brian Morris
I think it is most appropriate to begin this article with a disclaimer: The information contained here are my opinions, based on nearly 34 years of law enforcement experience, and not necessarily the opinions of any law enforcement agency. For the last 12 years of my career, I worked as a major fraud detective sergeant, with a particular focus on the financial abuse of elders and vulnerable adults. The abuse of vulnerable adults comes in many forms including physical, sexual, mental, neglect, isolation, abandonment, and financial. Through the years, I investigated most of these kinds of abuse, but only as peripheral issues within fraud cases. My primary investigative experience is with financial abuse, and that will be the focus of this article.
Over the years, I have repeatedly heard the mission of American law enforcement as focusing on three main categories: the protection of life, the preservation of property, and the apprehension of criminals. Based on this mission, I have come to the conclusion that the primary role of American law enforcement is crime prevention. If we can prevent crime, we automatically accomplish two of the three missions: protection of life and preservation of property.
Oddly enough I have never read anywhere that a primary mission of law enforcement is the recovery of stolen property. That being said, of course the police always try to recover stolen property. In fact, it was always an overarching goal of mine to make the victims in my cases whole, through the recovery of their property or through restitution by the perpetrator as part of the court proceedings. Nonetheless, it is not law enforcement’s primary mission. For this reason, it is up to each of us to protect ourselves to the extent possible though safe measures, and knowledge of possible scams and frauds.
We are taught, or inherently know, to protect ourselves and our possessions through safe measures that are ingrained in our minds and daily lives. We lock our houses when we leave. We don’t walk down dark alleys at night in “bad” areas of town. However, protecting ourselves from fraud can be much more tricky to recognize and avoid, as the goal of the “fraudster” is to get you to willingly GIVE your money to them with a smile on your face.
It is widely accepted that elders own 70% of the wealth in America, primarily through family real estate holdings, personal savings, and investment accounts. This makes older Americans huge targets for theft. Please keep in mind that you don’t have to be “rich” to be victimized. We all have some level of wealth that can be viewed by some criminal as worth stealing. Generally, our wealth has been acquired over many years or even decades, which should be a clue that true “get rich quick” opportunities seldom present themselves and recognizing them at the time is even more difficult.
In order to avoid the world of scams and fraud, it is important to remember that scams are always changing. Today’s scam is gone tomorrow and something new has taken its place. However, there are usually common threads that remain consistent: The deal won’t last. Everyone is doing this. This is an emergency. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when assessing opportunities and events as being potential scams and frauds:
- Contrary to generational upbringing, it is wise to be less trusting of strangers, whether it is someone knocking on your door needing a drink of water, or someone with an orange vest presenting themselves as a representative of a utility company. You do not need to invite them into your home. For those individuals helping a vulnerable adult family member, be cautious and watchful when choosing and including outside individuals into family affairs.
- Be wary of phone solicitation.
- Be very cautious of strangers telling you their sad stories that can be minimized through your generosity.
- Be cautious when someone wants information regarding your credit, personal wealth, or credit card information.
- Utilize the internet! It is a wonderful resource that allows you to research people, products, investments, and companies to determine their legitimacy.
- The government, in any form, will never call to tell you that you own them money. The government sends official letters.
- Legitimate businesses, the government, and investment opportunities do not accept payment by Western Union or cash cards.
- Law enforcement will never telephone you to collect fines under the threat of arrest warrant issuance.
- Winning lottery tickets are not sold for cash in the grocery store parking lot. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
The world of scams, fraud, and deception is ever growing. Many of us can not even imagine the extent some criminals will go to in order to separate us from our money. The days of armed criminals engaging in robberies are diminishing because it is a very dangerous way for criminals to get something that is not theirs. It is much safer to convince someone to happily give away their money.
Finally, make sure to have a support system in place to discuss your financial decisions. The world of financial abuse of vulnerable adults is constantly changing and is as colorful as the minds of the criminals engaging in it. Live well! Be happy! We have all worked very hard to have the comforts and lifestyles we do. As you get older, don’t let someone take the gold out of your “Golden Years.”
Brian Morris was a sworn member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for nearly 34 years and a sergeant for 21 years. His assignments included Custody Division, Patrol Division, Administrative Division, and Detective Division. From 2004, until his retirement in 2016, Mr. Morris was a Detective Sergeant assigned to the department’s Fraud & Cyber Crimes Bureau, which is tasked with investigating a myriad of financial crimes. For more than 12 years, Mr. Morris supervised a team of detectives dedicated to investigating the financial abuse of elders and vulnerable adults. In addition to overseeing the investigations of others, Sergeant Morris conducts investigations himself.
Mr. Morris was an active member of several multidisciplinary teams, including the Los Angeles County Financial Abuse Specialist Team (F.A.S.T.) and the Los Angeles County Elder Death Review Team. Sergeant Morris was a founding member of the Los Angeles County Elder Abuse Forensic Center, which is an affiliate entity of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
Sergeant Morris has served as a consultant to the California Department of Justice – Commission on Peace Officer’s Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) and regularly provided training for law enforcement and other government and private entities who seek greater understanding of his narrowly focused and highly specialized area of criminal investigation.
For information or booking Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org