Elder financial abuse and fraud is one of the largest growing changes in the care of seniors.
There are eight major sources of fraud: family members (including the result of sibling rivalry); unscrupulous businesses; caregivers; trusted professionals; transients; neighbors; “friends”; and what are called “sweetheart scammers.”
“Sweetheart Scammers,” both domestic and foreign, ask seniors for money for a sick relative or an emotionally-compelling emergency that tugs at the heartstrings.
Three years after the death of his wife, Frank, a retired policeman, began to respond to all solicitations for money. He gave to those who rang his doorbell, to requests in the mail, and to pleas from telephone callers. He was encouraged to move to ever bigger schemes by foreign callers – especially those from Jamaica and Africa. These solicitations were either “get-rich-quick” schemes or “tug-at-the-heart” schemes.
Frank fell for everything. He gave thousands of dollars every month, routinely sending $500 – $1,500 to con artists abroad. The worst was a woman who befriended him. She came to his house every month, on the same day, and left with $500-1,500 for her “ill mother.”
We learned of this abuse when Eddy & Schein Group was hired as Frank’s personal finance manager. Gideon Schein informed the adult children of what was happening, told them what action to take, and how he could assist them.
Frank’s children went to the police department where there is a special detective assigned to senior fraud. The detective was at Frank’s home on the day this woman was expected. He arrested her and another suspect, but not before they tried to mace both the detective and Frank’s granddaughter.
Gideon then worked with a district attorney, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and Homeland Security, all of whom need to be notified of such abuse. Gideon was able to cancel a lot of the subscriptions and mailings to which Frank had fallen victim. However, Frank continued to work with psychics and others who cost him a lot of money. Gideon’s work with the family, the authorities and banks continued, but the situation was greatly improved.
Financial fraud of seniors is growing for many reasons:
- More seniors suffer from cognitive and physical disability.
- Seniors often are reluctant to seek outside advice about financial matters.
- Many seniors are isolated socially and desire company, which makes them susceptible to manipulative “friends.”
- Seniors typically have strong values regarding polite behavior and are averse to being thought rude.
- Often seniors avoid reporting incidents to law enforcement officials.
- Seniors over the age of 50 control 70% of the nation’s wealth. That percentage is ever-growing and thieves go where the money is.
It is vital that seniors and their caregivers educate themselves about the different frauds and scams and learn how best to respond. Understand what to do if you suspect fraud, and report fraud immediately.
If you are responsible for the care of a senior, what steps have you taken to avoid elder financial abuse and fraud?