Former District Attorney Randy Nichols, left, and Aaron Bradley Director ETAAAD and ETHRA Photos by Vivian Shipe

By Vivian Shipe

KNOXVILLE, TN — The first two statements of the opening day of the Elder Justice Conference got everyone’s attention.

The first statement of the day was about the realization that for too long, we have paid more attention to the care of our pets and children than to our elders. The second was an eye opener.

By 2034, the number of people over age 65 in the USA will far surpass the number of people under the age of 18.

The country is aging and the repercussions of an aging society and the attacks and scams on the most vulnerable were the topics covered during the three-day statewide conference held in Knoxville at the Crown Plaza right before the fourth of July holiday began. Collaboration and a more systematic response were some of the goals of the conference.

The conference was an opportunity to collaborate on best practices in elder justice on local, state, and national levels. Experts from all across the country were flown in to share their knowledge in the areas of mail fraud, advocacy, education, prosecution, investigation, law enforcement, and community support services. Among the topics covered over the three-day event that are having an adverse effect on the lives of elders: mail fraud and money order scams, money mules, cybercrimes, and financial exploitation .A special presentation on the need for collaboration, and the need for immediate response to abuse reports in real time came from District Attorney Charme Allen who showed a PSA called Think before you Click- Be a Scam Stopper. Spoofing, where the caller uses a phone number you are familiar with to get your information was also discussed with a reminder to all who experience such a call to say nothing, hang up and call the number back.

The most attended session and the most frightening in its implications was on artificial intelligence also known as A.I., and Chat GPT. the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think and learn like human beings. A. I. and bitcoin ATMs are being used by criminals to steal billions of dollars. Chat GPT is the collective intelligence from across the world and it teaches A.I. to match your voice or writing styles and criminals use YOUR voice to scam others as the system now sounds exactly like you.

One of the most important messages throughout the conference was the need for family members to talk to their elder adults, monitor phone calls asking for personal information, watch for piles of mail indicating they may be a target of financial scammers and to keep an eye on their bank accounts.

For more information about the changes coming to the elder population and the information shared at the conference, contact Director Aaron Bradley at ETHRA, (East Tennessee Human Resource Agency): 865 691-2551 ext. 4216.

A little known law in Tennessee is that EVERY adult in the state of Tennessee is a MANDATORY reporter in ALL forms of abuse, physical, sexual, neglect, and financial exploitation. Reports SHALL be made to Adult Protective Service at 1-888-277-8366

To report Fraud: contact the Federal Trade Commission: 1-877-FTC-HELP

To report mail fraud: (over 500 million lost in scams through the mail annually) contact the Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455 SAY theft or fraud when prompted or email: