I didn’t realize how much elderly people were prayed upon by scam artists until I met with one of my elderly clients recently. He is a retired physician who was a very bright, savvy individual but is now beginning to lose some of his mental sharpness. I met with him and his wife at their home. His wife informed me that he had been receiving 8-10 calls a day from various scammers claiming that he had just won the lottery. They told him that all he needed to do was pass on his bank account information to them and the award would be transferred to his account. More than once his wife encountered him reading his bank account information over the phone to a total stranger.
When I met with my mom at her retirement community (she’s 88) I just happened to take a peek at her mail. 4 out of 5 pieces she received were from organizations requesting money for one reason or another. One was an organization claiming that she was part of the group that had been short changed by social security. They were raising money to approach congress and change the laws to get her money back. It included a very official looking certificate sent by a very reputable sounding senior’s organization.
I recently read a very good book entitled “The Boomer Burden” by Julie Hall, The Estate Lady (www.theestatelady.com). Her job is to help adult children clean out the homes of their parents when they pass away or move into a retirement community. She cited many shocking incidents of children, friends and family members taking advantage of elderly people. She stated that 50 percent of elderly Americans are victims of financial exploitation. The average age of a victim of financial exploitation is 78!
Julie makes specific recommendations in her book to help adult children protect their parents from fraud.
1. Register your parents telephone numbers with the National do Not Call Registry (www.donotcall.gov/)
2. Discuss with them the list of common frauds ( described in her book) and ask them to contact you if they suspect that anyone is trying to defraud them.
3. Ask your parents to contact you if anyone offers to buy their possessions.
4. Make sure a family member personally visits your parents on a weekly basis.
Julie points out that an excellent source of information on the many financial scams that your parents may face is the National Center on Elder Abuse. (www.elderabusecenter.org)
Probably the single best piece of advise I can provide is for you to stay in touch with your parents. Be available when they get calls from doubtful people and visits from scam artists who want to do home repairs or claim to be a bank examiner. Communicate with them and know what’s going on in their lives.