A concern that I’ve frequently heard recently among our Elder Law clients is that of protecting the elderly from the rising amount of fraud. An especially egregious kind of fraud that I’m hearing more and more stories about are fraudulent telemarketing calls aimed at the elderly.
A common scam is to call an elderly person and inform them that they have “won” a lottery. Elderly are especially vulnerable as they are easier to convince that they’ve entered a lottery and forgot. After so convincing them, the con artist then informs their victim that they have to first pay some kind of “fee” or “tax” on the proceeds and convinces the victim to send them money, or give them access to their bank account, for that purpose.
Inevitably, there is no way to retrieve the funds so lost – and usually the ones who are taken by these scams are least able to afford the loss.
How to protect your aging parents from these scams? This is the most difficult part. Our elderly do not want to surrender control of their affairs to their children for many reasons: the importance of independence, embarrassment of the situation, denial of their increasing vulnerability, etc. And it can be a very difficult process and unpleasant conversation to have.
Start with a discussion with your elderly parents about the prevalence of these kinds of scams – especially focus on the key signals of a fraud: someone offering to give you money but requiring payment in advance. With that discussion, offer to aid your parent in recognizing the fraud before it is too late by asking them to call you before sending any payments to anyone not already a regular payee – like their landlord, utility bills etc.
The unfortunate fact is that once these kinds of fraud occur, there is almost nothing that can be done. It is difficult to get law enforcement to investigate these, not least because they are often interstate or even international. Funds are virtually never recovered.
When your parents are prepared to turn over their financial affairs to you, or are no longer capable to handling them at all, we can offer several methods to legally empower you to act on your parents’ behalf.