Help for the old and the young

Older people have always been prime targets for scam artists seeking to prey on the vulnerable. According to a recent survey, more than 7 million American seniors have already been victimized by a financial swindle.

A new campaign to combat investment swindles will train medical professionals to spot people who are susceptible to these scams. Georgia is joining 21 other states in this effort.

It’s one of two new programs in the state – the other targeting teens and dating violence – that aim to help protect people against abuse.

The most vulnerable to investment scams include the millions of older people who have mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease. A possible victim, when identified by a physician, can receive help ‘’at the earliest possible point,’’ says Irving Faught, administrator of the Oklahoma Securities Commission, and chairman of the Investor Protection Institute.

Doctors and others in medical settings would refer these at-risk seniors to state securities regulators and adult protection workers. If needed, law enforcement would get involved.

Investment fraud involving seniors ”is a big problem,” says Robert Terry, assistant commissioner of securities for the state of Georgia. “It’s another form of elder abuse.”  Terry adds that getting health care providers to identify potential problems ”is a great idea.”

Participating medical groups include the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians and the American Geriatrics Society. For more information, go to

Meanwhile, a new social networking site has been launched to help teenagers develop relationships that are free of violence. The site,, is a resource with an important message for teens: Violence in relationships is never acceptable.

The program was created by Start Strong Atlanta, which was established in 2008 when the Jane Fonda Center at Emory University received $1 million in funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In Georgia, one of every six high school students experiences physical abuse at the hands of their partner, according to a 2009 survey. That means being punched, hit, or slapped by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past 12 months.

Youth leaders at Start Strong Atlanta helped design the website, aiming to tap the social networking that has exploded among teenagers. The Fonda Center’s primary partners are the Atlanta Public Schools and Grady Memorial Hospital’s Teen Services Program.

Marie Mitchell, Start Strong Atlanta project director, says a goal is to ‘’create the foundation for lifelong healthy relationships.”

Have you or anyone you know been a victim of either financial abuse or a violent relationship? Feel free to post a comment below.