The Senior Safe Act is Now Law – Helping to Protect Elders from Financial Abuse

As part of a larger financial overhaul bill, on May 24, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Senior Safe Act.  While much of the reporting on the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act was about the Dodd-Frank revisions, the law incorporated most of the original provisions of the Senior Safe Act, a law geared toward protecting the elderly against financial abuse.

The Senior Safe Act

The Senior Safe Act allows financial institutions and its employees to report elderly financial abuse without  fear of privacy law violations.  Individuals and companies that properly train employees to recognize signs of elder financial abuse are immune from liability for reporting suspected abuse, as long as the reporting was done in good faith and done with reasonable care.  The financial institutions include credit unions, banks, brokerage firms and insurance companies.

Protecting the Elderly from Financial Abuse

Banks and other financial institutions are on the front lines when witnessing possible financial abuse. Until last week, individuals who witnessed elder exploitation risked being in violation of federal and state privacy laws if the suspected abuse was reported. Watching the abuse and not being able to say anything to authorities put these individuals and their employer in a tough spot. With this new law, the elderly can be better protected by financial services industry employees.

The elderly lose between $3 billion and $36 billion per year to financial fraud, according to Consumer Reports in 2015. The amount depends on the survey conducted. While the range varies between the different surveys, there is no dispute that the elderly are vulnerable to friends, family and strangers when it comes to their money. In another study, Allianz reported in 2016 that the average financial loss to elderly victims was $36,000.00, and the numbers will grow with the aging baby boomer population.

Something must be done about this unspeakable crime plaguing our elderly. The Senior Safe Act is a step in the right direction. Giving individuals and their employers who are closest to an elder person’s money the ability to speak out when wrongdoing is suspected is a relief, but more needs to be done to protect our elderly.

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Elder Scam #9 – Craigslist Sale – Overpayment

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of.

Craigslist Ad Started Out Innocently

A woman places an ad on Craigslist trying to sell her mother’s vintage bedroom set. A person replies by email and tells the woman she really wants the set because she is going to ship it down south to another home. Overnight, the seller gets a check in the mail for the price of the bedroom set plus shipping costs. The buyer emails the seller and tells her to cash the check, pay the shipper, ship the bedroom set, and keep the extra money. No phone numbers or phone calls were ever exchanged. The seller, feeling a bit leery, takes the check to the police station. The police tell her that the check is phony. Well, if the seller had deposited the check and shipped the bedroom set, by the time the check bounced, the seller would have been out the cost of the bedroom set and the shipping costs. Fortunately, the seller had the wherewithal to suspect something was fishy. However, if it had been her elderly mother that was selling the bedroom set, the outcome may have been quite different.

Family members need to be cautious and stay informed of what their elderly relatives are doing. We live in an age where trusting a stranger or trying to help out a stranger on blind faith no longer provides the “feel good” rewards that it once did. Unfortunately, the “do good” outlook that many of the elderly grew up with has been corrupted by charlatans and swindlers.

Elder Scam #8: Your Computer May Be Infected

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of.

Caller Says There is a Computer Security Risk

People posing as computer engineers are making cold walls warning people that their computers are at risk for a security threat. The person on the other end offers a free security check over the telephone, but the “engineer” needs remote access to your computer for a diagnosis and a fix.  Once you give these “engineers” remote access, software is downloaded on your computer that allows them to steal your identity, take money from your bank account and look at any other information you may have on your computer.  To boot, once the software is downloaded and your information has been taken, your computer gets hit with a virus.  A similar scam comes in the form of a fake virus protection pop-up while you are on the internet or a virus protection offer in the form of an email.

Don’t Give Out Computer Information

The best practice is to warn your loved one about giving out computer access information over the telephone and on-line and about the dangers of clicking on unknown links and pop-ups. Have your loved one contact you if there is ever a question about giving out personal information.

Elder Scam #7 – Stranger at a Funeral

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of.

A “Friend” of the Deceased

A stranger scours through the local obituaries for upcoming funeral services. The stranger shows up at the viewing or the funeral service telling the family that he/she was a friend of the deceased. During the conversation, the stranger tells the family that the deceased owes them money and shows them a falsified I.O.U. or Promissory Note. The grieving family, not knowing any better and not in a right frame of mind, pays the stranger.

Elders and their family members should be leery of those that try to capitalize right after a loved one dies. Politely ask them to contact you the following month to settle any debts of the deceased. Typically, if it is a legitimate debt, you will be contacted. But most often, the stranger will not try to contact you again.

 

 

Know the Warning Signs of Elder Financial Abuse

Financial Abuse with the Elderly

Older Americans are less likely to report that they have been scammed out of their money because they are ashamed or don’t know that they have been scammed. Elderly victims also may not report that they have been scammed because they are worried their relatives might think they no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs. This is hard on everyone: from the senior that finds out they have been swindled to the relative that finds out about the swindle and wishes he/she knew about it sooner to try to stop it. For the elderly, many do not want to report the fraud because they don’t know who to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or don’t know they have been scammed. In addition, elderly victims may not report crimes because they are concerned that relatives may think the victims no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.  It is so important that people understand the warning signs of elder financial abuse.

Caregivers – Pay Attention!

Those of us who are taking care of elderly parents need to pay attention to signs that may indicate some sort of elder financial abuse is happening or has happened. Here are some tips that should send up flags that your elderly relative may be the victim of financial abuse:

  • A new “friend” that is increasing gaining the trust of your loved one
  • Unexplained bank account withdrawals and increasing credit card charges
  • Withdrawal by a loved one because he/she is either being isolated by a “friend” or he/she knows that he/she has just fallen victim to a financial fraud and are embarrassed
  • Self-serving family members who get the relative to change his/her Will and other estate plan documents

The United States Special Committee on Aging Resources Page is published by the Senate and is a very informative website that provides a wealth of information on reporting financial abuse for the elderly. There are telephone numbers and website information to assist someone who believes he/she or a relative is the subject of a financial scam.

Coping with the difficult emotions of caregiving — The Memories Project

Caregiving is a tough task, both physically and emotionally. There are many emotions that can arise while one is a caregiver, and many are not pleasant. However, it is important to recognize, acknowledge and process these feelings. Caring.com offers an excellent article, The 7 Deadly Emotions of Caregiving: How to Cope. The 7 emotions the article […]The Memories Project

via Coping with the difficult emotions of caregiving — The Memories Project

Elder Scam #4 – The Cleaning Lady

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of.

An elderly woman lives alone and all of her children live outside of the city. The woman needs help and hires someone to come in and clean her house. The cleaning person soon realizes that the woman’s family does not come around very much and realizes the elderly woman is lonely. The cleaning person then gains the confidence of the woman. After about six months, the cleaning woman and the elderly woman become friends. They go out to eat together, go to the casino together and have what the elderly woman believes is a true friendship. The elderly woman begins trusting the cleaning lady with her personal information such as Social Security Number, credit card numbers and bank accounts because she truly believes they are friends. All the while, the cleaning woman is using the elderly woman’s personal information to obtain new credit cards and charge the cards to the max. By the time the elderly woman finds out about it, the cleaning woman stops coming around and the elderly woman can no longer get a hold of her. Phone is disconnected. The elderly woman is left with a pile of bills from credit card companies and her savings account has been depleted to nothing.

Be careful of allowing the elderly to be the subject of undue influence by a stranger, friend or relative. Once the undue influence begins, it is hard to convince an elderly person that they are being used by someone with ulterior motives.

Elderly Scam #3 – A Child’s Promise to Share an Inheritance

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of.

An elderly widow is trying to plan what to do with her money and her property after she dies. She wants to split everything equally among her children. One of her sons, who lives close by and takes care of all her needs, endears himself to his mom and tells her to put everything in his name and he promises to split everything equally with his siblings when something happens. After some convincing, the mother adds the son to her bank accounts, investments and the title to her home. The mother dies. The son owns everything and will not give his siblings anything, declaring that “Mom wanted me to have it because I took care of her. If she didn’t want me to have everything, she would have split it up before she died.” The siblings are left with nothing for an inheritance, not even mom’s jewelry.

Be careful of allowing the elderly to be the subject of undue influence by a stranger, friend or relative. Once the undue influence begins, it is hard to convince an elderly person that they are being used by someone with ulterior motives.

Elderly Scam #2 – Pay the IRS with Gift Cards

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of.

An elderly person received a voice mail message from the “IRS.” When she called the telephone number back, the “IRS Agent” gave his name and badge number. He told the elderly person that she owed $8,000 in tax money for the prior two years and if she didn’t pay immediately, then the “IRS Agent” would send the local police to her house to arrest her and to seize her property. She was instructed to go to the bank and withdraw $8,000 and then go to a local retail store to buy $8,000 in gift cards. The woman complied. The “IRS Agent” had her read off the gift card numbers and put her on hold while he obtained a confirmation number. After 30 minutes, he came back on the line and said she owed $12,000 more. She went back to the bank, and thank goodness for an astute bank teller, who told her it was a scam and to call the police. Unfortunately, when the police called the gift card company to see if funds remained on the gift cards, there was no money left on the cards.

The suspects used a phone app that made it look like the IRS was calling. Please know that the IRS does not contact you by telephone. The IRS deals with a taxpayer by mail. You can call the IRS, but they do not call you.

Ombudsman Program Helps Protect Long Term Care Patients

Ombudsman Program

Many people don’t know that there is a federal law, called the Older Americans Act, that requires every state to have an Ombudsman Program. The Ombudsman Program addresses complaints by residents of long term care facilities related to treatment, conditions, and abuse of those in long term care facilities. Family members of long term care residents can also complain to an Ombudsman regarding the level of care their loved one is getting.

 

What is an Ombudsman?

An Ombudsman, usually a volunteer, receives complaints regarding long term care and helps resolve those complaints. The Ombudsman works with both the resident and the facility to come to a peaceful conclusion. Communication between the Ombudsman and the person complaining is usually considered confidential and cannot be disclosed.

The Ombudsman can also hear complaints of physical, verbal or mental abuse, in the event a resident does not have anyone else to turn to or in the event a family member suspects the resident is somehow being abused. However, care must be given that a volunteer doesn’t overreach and get personally involved with family matters. When an Ombudsman gets involved in family fights or family matters, this should be outside the scope of his/her responsibility and should be reported back to the Program director. The Ombudsman is not there to referee family matters. Family fights should usually be resolved between the family, the court system or the state human services department.

In addition to resolving conflicts between a resident and a facility, the Ombudsman Program educates people on a resident’s rights, and advocates for a resident’s rights and quality of care, personal care and residential care. The Program also provides information to people about locating long term care facilities and what you should know to get quality care.

Usually, each state has local offices to help run the program, sometimes called the Commission on the Aging, Area on the Aging, Administration on the Aging, etc. If you contact your local township or city hall, they will most likely have the information you need to contact the local Ombudsman Program.   The National Council on Aging website is an excellent resource to learn more about the various aging programs.