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.
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.