Elder scams are more prevalent than many realize. And most readers of this blog have a relative who is at risk of becoming a victim. Today’s blog points you to an excellent article, better than I could write myself, that I hope you will read.
One of the authors I follow is Kathy Bennett. Bennett is a retired Los Angeles police officer who writes murder mysteries. In addition, she maintains an active website and newsletter.
Bennett recently posted an outstanding four-part blog about Elder Scams and Fraud. Because of her personal experiences with several family members, plus her law enforcement background, she’s in a unique position to sound the alarm on elder scams.
We previously discussed protecting yourself from dangerous emails and guarding your identity. However, helping ourselves is not enough! Therefore, today we are reaching out to others, to protect our more vulnerable loved ones.
Kathy Bennett’s Elder Scams Article
Note added May 3, 2020: When I went to update this blog, I learned that Bennett is changing her website, which apparently means “cleaning house” of some older blog articles. I cannot find her four-part Elder Scams series on the new website, therefore below I have taken the liberty to give you links to my own copies of her article, for your personal use.
Here are links to the four parts of Bennett’s series on Elder Scams and Fraud, each with my comment:
Seniors and stroke victims may be extremely trusting, and easy victims of elder scams. As a result, we can identify those at highest risk: people who are isolated, lonely, physically or mentally disabled, unfamiliar with handling their finances, or who recently lost a spouse.
Elder scams occur in so many ways: by phone; via e-mail; through U.S. mail; by a repair technician. A scammer waits in a parking lot until an older person backs out their car, then claims injury to extort money from them. Others work as a team, approaching an elder in a shopping center or near an ATM machine.
One popular scam is to call an older person and say “Hi Grandma! Do you know who this is?” If “Grandma” tells them a name, the scammer now has an identity with which to ask for financial help. Other people approach seniors pretending to be former neighbors; the senior is embarrassed to admit that he can’t remember them, and accepts them as trustworthy. Surprisingly, many elder scams are perpetrated by family members or caregivers.
If you have an older or somewhat confused relative, you need to pay attention to their affairs. Piles of mail, stacks of magazines, many packages are warning signs. And there are many danger signals if you review bank statements and images of canceled checks.
Recommendations To Combat Elder Scams
Everyone reading this post probably has at least one older or somewhat confused family member who deserves your attention. And at some point you will need the same concern from someone else!
An older person needs family members to receive information copies of their financial statements. Note that I say family members– that is, more than one – because a single family member helping an elder may himself be suspected of fraud. Coordinating with and being transparent with other family members helps reassure everyone.
You also need to visit that older person, wherever they live. You need to look for any signs that your relative is being solicited, exploited or abused. And you need to take time to talk with them privately, to hear their concerns and to assess their mental condition. Privately means without the presence of any other person, including a caregiver.
Bottom line, you need to be involved in your family member’s life. Elder scams prey upon individuals who are alone, either physically or socially. An elder who is part of a socializing family is much better protected from the frauds that may prey upon each of us.