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A new program may soon put an end to senior fraud in South Carolina.
Called Senior Shield, the initiative was developed by the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging as a way to curb fraud against senior citizens. The system, which has only been active for about five weeks, is meant to not only properly examine local businesses, but also provide a comprehensive directory for those searching for trustworthy business people.
“It lets you see the portion of people that have conducted good business,” said Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who has been introducing the system to people across the state. Bauer visited The Lancaster News on Monday to talk about the program.
There are more than 775,000 senior citizens in the state, according to the Office on Aging, and by the year 2025 that population will increase by more than 100 percent. With so many reports of fraud against seniors, Bauer said the problem would only get worse unless there was a system in place to protect them. That’s where Senior Shield comes in.
Senior Shield was developed through a joint resolution by the S.C. General Assembly, and is a way people can check on a business before they use it. The idea is that businesses can sign up to be a part of the program by paying a minimum of $150 and submitting to a series of background checks.
The program looks at the businesses through more than 30 national, state and local databases, and goes back as far as seven years. These checks vary depending on the type of business.
If a business passes the checks, it becomes a member of the
Senior Shield directory. The directory can then be searched for free by those looking for businesses considered safe for seniors.
Bauer hopes businesses in Lancaster County will begin signing up with the service, so residents of the county won’t have to travel to other areas to find secure businesses.
Businesses interested in earning their Senior Shield, or people who are searching for trustworthy businesses, may visit www.scseniorshield.com or call toll-free at 1-877-723-3771.
Bauer saw the need for such a system when he traveled across the state last summer. Thousands of residents attended the 25 listening sessions he held in different towns and cities, with local residents either recounting their stories as victims of fraud, or finding out ways to prevent becoming victims. He said he never expected to see so many people, especially in small, rural towns like Chesnee.
More than 90 people showed up for his meeting there, which is surprising considering the town has a population of a little over 1,000 people.
He said many people were searching for the best way to protect their elderly parents from becoming victims of fraud.
“They would say ‘I sure would feel more comfortable if the person who’ll be in my mom’s house, around their valuables, is all right or if it’s someone I should check out,’ ” Bauer said.
Bauer says South Carolina is leading the way in efforts to help seniors, and said it is only a matter of time before similar programs are available nationwide.
And while the program won’t completely solve the problem of senior fraud, he believes it is a good start.
“Will it stop everyone? No. Will it deter some? Yes. Will it allow people to do something easy and get a bountiful amount of information on a business? Yes it will,” Bauer said.
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at 416-8416