Elder Abuse

Safe Seniors

Help Keep San Diego County Seniors Safe

San Diego County handles approximately 9,000 cases of elder and dependent adult abuse each year. Many other incidents go unreported, leaving vulnerable adults in distressing, potentially life-changing, even dangerous, situations.

Abuse often escalates if there is no intervention. Victims will live in silent desperation, unwilling to seek assistance because they believe their cries for help will go unanswered and they fear retaliation from their abusers. Many remain silent to protect abusive family members from the legal consequences of their crimes, or they are too embarrassed to admit that they have fallen victim to predators.

Reporting Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse

If a situation appears to be life threatening or a crime is in progress, call 9-1-1 or your local law enforcement. If you believe elder or dependent abuse has occurred, call Adult Protective Services at 1-800-510-2020, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Outside the County of San Diego call 1-800-339-4661.

Mandated reporters, such as health and social service professionals, are able to report suspected elder or dependent adult abuse online through the following URL:


Users of the online system will need to register when they first use the link and the County Aging & Independence Services will need to approve the account. Online users will not need to call in an initial report or send a follow-up written report.

Warning Signs of Elder Abuse

  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Obvious lacerations, abrasions, fractures, welts, bruises, discoloration, or swelling Pain or tenderness on mere touch
  • Burns caused by cigarettes, ropes or other bonds
  • Elder is withdrawn or demonstrates dramatic change in behavior

Mental Suffering due to threats, coercion, and intimidation, causing

  • Fear, Confusion or Withdrawal
  • Appears depressed and not himself/herself
  • Unusual mood changes and anger
  • Fear of being touched or approached by others
  • Seems withdrawn, unusually introverted or afraid

Financial Abuse, taking funds, property or assets by

  • Theft
  • Burglary
  • Forgery
  • Fraud
  • Scams – By phone, mail, or internet.
  • False Lotteries


  • Abandonment
  • Abduction
  • The elder feels isolated by a caretaker and is unable to speak freely or spend time with others
  • A caretaker fails to assist with personal hygiene or in providing clothing for the elder
  • A caregiver has a history of violence, alcohol or drug abuse
  • The elder has sudden weight loss or shows signs of dehydration or malnutrition The elder does not have necessities, including eyeglasses, dentures, prostheses, hearing aids, canes, walkers, or other critical items

Self Neglect, inability of an elder or dependent adult to:

  • Provide personal care
  • Obtain food, water, medical care, medications
  • Maintain personal safety

Self-neglect is NOT a crime. However, seniors can receive assistance from Adult Protective Services.

Often victims of elder abuse can be abused in more ways than one. For example, an abuser may hit the elder (physical abuse) in order to convince him or her to turn over money to the abuser (financial abuse).

If any of these conditions apply, please call Adult Protective Services at 1-800-510-2020 immediately to report it.

Prosecuting Elder Abuse

People can also report suspicion of elder and dependent adult abuse through law enforcement agencies, such as police and sheriff’s departments. Some law enforcement entities have specialized units that focus on crimes involving older adults and dependent adults. Many of the reports of abuse and other crimes are cross reported among agencies.

The DA’s Elder Abuse Unit, which is part of our Family Protection Division, is ready to help. We serve as lightening rod and a community resource when confronting this particularly appalling crime.

In addition to prosecuting crimes against seniors, the District Attorney’s Elder Abuse Unit addresses the special needs of elderly victims, who often require hands-on care and attention. Education is also part of our mission. We meet with seniors to teach them how to protect themselves. We train bank and credit union employees how to protect the financial assets of their elderly customers. We also train police, public safety and fire personnel to be aware of the special issues involving elders.

If you believe elder abuse has occurred, call Adult Protective Services at 1-800-510-2020 immediately to report it. Importance of Reporting Elder and Dependent Adult


Anyone who has even the slightest suspicion that an elder or dependent adult is a potential victim of abuse is asked to report their concerns. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and report. The law does not require non-mandated reporters to make abuse reports. However, to encourage reporting, all reports are confidential and non-mandated reporters are not required to give their names. They are also protected from civil and criminal liability if they make the report of elder abuse in good faith.

For Mandated Reporters

There are health and social service professionals who are mandated to report abuse. View a list of the various mandated reporters.

Mandated reporters, such as health and social service professionals, are able to report suspected elder or dependent adult abuse online through the following URL: https://www.AISWebReferral.org

Users of the online system will need to register when they first use the link and the County Aging & Independence Services will need to approve the account. Online users will not need to call in an initial report or send a follow-up written report.

Mandated reporters who choose NOT to use the online referral are required to report any suspicions of abuse by telephone immediately and file a written report – the SOC 341 form – within 48 hours. Individuals who willfully fail to report where the abuse results in death or great bodily injury, may be punished by up to one year in county jail, or by a fine of up to $5,000, or by both imprisonment and fine. Mail to:

Aging & Independence Services County of San Diego,
HHSA P.O. Box 23217
San Diego, CA 92193-3217

Fax to: (858) 495-5247

Adult Protective Services (APS)

This division of the County’s Aging & Independence Services, is the designated agency to accept reports of suspected abuse of elders and dependent adults that happens in a person’s home or out in the community (except for nursing homes, board and care homes and other healthcare-related residential facilities).

APS is responsible both for investigating reported cases of elder and vulnerable adult abuse and for providing victims with treatment and protective services.

APS can be a lifeline for dependent adults and seniors who have been harmed or are threatened with harm:

  • Adults 18+ with a physical or mental disability that prevents them from taking care of themselves
  • Seniors 65 and older

Please read more about how the APS system works.

Reporting Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse in licensed nursing, residential, and board and care facilities

To report concerns in facilities, including suspected abuse, contact the Long-term Care Ombudsman office.

Call Toll Free: 1-800-640-4661

Outside San Diego County: 1-858-560-2507

Long-term Care Ombudsman

Ombudsman volunteers and staff advocate for people who live in residential care and skilled nursing facilities. They try to improve the lives of residents by: Providing a regular presence in the facilities Providing information and assistance Speaking up for the resident Investigating and resolving complaints Please read more about the Long-term Care Ombudsman.

The “Grandma Scam”

Since the beginning of the year, the DA’s Victim Assistance Division has noted an apparent increase in crime reports where elderly citizens have been targeted by criminals using the so-called “Grandma Scam.” Imposters, often from foreign countries, target the elderly by posing as a grandchild in trouble and in need of cash. The caller often says that he or she has been arrested, was in a car accident or has some type of medical emergency. The caller always insists that the grandparent not tell anyone about the money transfer, which is one of the red flags. The scam is often effective because it catches seniors off guard and tugs at their heartstrings. Victims of financial elder abuse lose an estimated $2.9 billion nationwide, according to a study released in June by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. Most victims are between the ages of 80 and 90, live alone and require some level of help with healthcare or home maintenance.

Fight back by ensuring that your friends and family members do not become victims. Explain to them how the scam works, and encourage them to be suspicious of anyone who calls unexpectedly and wants them to wire money- especially to Mexico and Canada. The San Diego County Office of Aging and Independent Services has an Adult Protective Services hotline for those who suspect any type of elder abuse. The phone number is 800-510-2020.

To keep your finances safe from scams, consider these tips: sweepstakes and overseas lotteries are phony; screen your calls before answering; don’t be afraid to hang up on the perpetrator; don’t let emotions cause you to react immediately to a phone call, letter or email; always check with a professional adviser. When people have been scammed once, their phone numbers and information are sold to other tricksters. Consider changing your phone number to avoid an onslaught of predatory phone calls.

For organizations that cater to senior citizens, posters with slogans and the hotline phone number are available. Contact the District Attorney’s Office at 619-515-8654 for more information on how to obtain a poster to hang in your establishment. For more information on victim assistance, contact 619-531-4041.

Ten Tips to Help Your Reduce The Risk of Becoming The Next Victim of Financial Elder Abuse

Please read these tips to avoid elder abuse.

Tips for Hiring an In-home Caregiver

Although you can never totally guarantee that your elder family member won’t be at risk with a caregiver in the home, there are ways to minimize that potential problem. Please read these tips to avoid elder abuse.

Financial Advice

Seniors who are seeking assistance from a financial expert can visit the nonprofit H.E.L.P. (Healthcare and Elder Law Programs) website which includes an “Ask First!” questionnaire to use to select an financial advisor.

Please read more about Protecting Mom & Dad’s money

One of the tasks of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is to help educate older adults about how to avoid being victims of financial abuse. The bureau recently created two objective and useful publications. One is a consumer guide to reverse mortgages. The other is a “Money Smart” curriculum regarding scams and fraud against older adults. To locate these publications and future ones, visit the website and look under “Get Assistance,” then under “Older Americans.” You can email the bureau at OlderAmericans@CFPB.gov.