Elder Financial Abuse

Recently my 84 year old mother received a call from a young man. He claimed to be her grandson. He was in Chicago and in some trouble and needed money. He said “please don’t tell my parents because they don’t know I’m here.” My mother, who still has her wits about her asked “which grandson?”. The caller replied “the oldest one”. Then, Mom asked for a name and the caller hung up. Had it been my father who answered the phone, I am afraid the outcome could have been quite different.

Our older population is being targeted for financial abuse. Quite often, the abuser is a friend, a neighbor or a family member. It doesn’t have to be a stranger on the other end of the phone.

We have been attending seminars on this topic over the past year. There is a NC Statute (no. 108A-115) that states financial advisors have a duty to report elder financial abuse if they suspect it. For this reason, we are asking most clients to sign a letter giving us a list of their trusted contacts. This letter gives us a list of contacts should we suspect our clients of falling prey to these scams.

The scams range from a variety of about 20 different telephone fraud situations to sweepstake and sweetheart scams to predatory lending practices and door to door home repair fraud.

Here are some ideas for how you can protect yourselves and your loved ones:

  • Make sure your home and cell phone numbers are on the Do Not Call Registry (888-382-1222) or
  • NEVER give out your account and identification numbers to any one that calls you.
  • Hang up on Robocallers. Do not try to get out of the loop by pushing any numbers. This just confirms that they reached a person.
  • Never send in money to claim a prize.
  • Never invest in something you don’t understand and don’t make hasty decisions about investments because the sales person is pressuring you.
  • Don’t do business with someone that shows up at your door and tells you that repairs need to be done right away.
  • Don’t respond to charitable requests over the phone. Do your research and give directly to the organizations in which you are interested.

These fraudulent scams are getting more organized and more sophisticated and predatory every day. If you are caring for an elderly person, check in with them regularly about strange phone calls and visitors they may have received. The elderly are a direct target due to their trusting nature, potentially failing memory and sometimes vulnerable financial situation.