One of the most difficult aspects of fraud targeting seniors is that it is often perpetrated by a trusted person. Family members are the top source of financial abuse and other neighbors, friends and caretakers may also take advantage of their relationship to begin financially abusing the situation. There are many concerns for the seniors who live alone, lonely and looking for anyone who will listen. Unfortunately, in my experience with home visits, I once visited with an elderly lady who lived alone in which her son was reviewing her bills. He noticed a receipt and asked her about it. She responded that a young very nice man sold her a new phone system that offered many needed accessories and could not go wrong. The son pointed out that she already has her phone connected to life line and did not need the $600.00 dollar phone system. The lady responded, “he sounded convincing and such a nice young man”. Of course, there was no number to contact the young man and the receipt had no business name which the elderly woman only remembered his name was Bill which the check was made out to.
Here are some things you might notice in an elder loved one which could indicate financial abuse or being the victim of scams:
• Worrying about finances, having unanticipated financial problems.
• Unexplained purchases, missing cash or valuables.
• Difficulty explaining purchases or confusion over a purchase or service contract; excessive repairs or items being purchased for the home.
• Giving financial control to a new caregiver, neighbor or friend.
• Fear or intimidation signals (mentioning, for example, that the daughter who helps out “doesn’t want me to talk about that” or doesn’t allow the elder to see the checkbook any longer or review accounts).
Financial elder abuse and scams can be very difficult to prevent or even resolve. Often elders will not report the abuse and feel embarrassed over the situation. There may be a level of intimidation and control that is hard to break through. Here are some steps that may help, though, in overall safeguarding for elders and resources to help:
• Regularly evaluate how they are doing by providing a periodic evaluation and check in with calls and in-person visits. Continual communication can help you spot issues, as well as give your loved one opportunities to mention concerns.
• Share information about popular scams with your loved one and educate on issues such as giving out personal information and if they are dealing with a salesperson – ask your loved one to explain to the salesperson that all information must be reviewed by the professional advisor or family member who is the designated “Power of Attorney” to discuss in further detail. Helping your loved one set up a dignified manner in handling solicitations, will prevent scams from occurring.
• Determine ways to simplify finances and possibly consider a system for oversight (regular review/access by a trusted professional or family member).
Trusted professionals may be a Fidicuary Service which will oversee all incoming/outcoming bills, medical decisions, trusts to basic case management. Maybe your loved one only requires minimal bill paying services which a Bill Payers agency would be able to handle for your loved one. Please look for these types of services that are most accommodating in the needs of your loved