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Helping our Elderly Parents Avoid Scams

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I recently read an article titled “Why Do Elderly Parents Fall For Scams That Seem So Obvious To Us?” by Carolyn Rosenblatt. I immediately thought of a past client of mine who had a financial planner who scammed him out of thousands of dollars. My client was wealthy, alone, never married, no children.

When my client started going downhill, his cousin started helping out and noticed some fishy transactions by this financial planner in the financial records. If it weren’t for the cousin stepping-in and confronting this financial planner (lawsuit pending), my client could have been wiped clean. The saddest part of it all is that my client told me he knew the financial planner for years…..trusted him…like a friend of the family…..

It wasn’t that my client was dumb – he was an accomplished and very intelligent man – served his country in the Korean War – worked hard all his life – friendly, kind and generous man – contributed to society in many ways.

Carolyn Rosenblatt says seniors don’t “get it” for various reasons including that they are isolated and lonely. That’s probably the way my client felt when his financial planner came along. I could just imagine a call from the financial planner to my client – real friendly and kind, starts asking him open-ended questions, starts to create feelings of bonding and lies to create a feeling of connection with him. Probably started out slow and as my client trusted him more and more he started giving him advice on how to invest his savings and make more money.

Another reason seniors fall for scams is diminished cognition. That is exactly what happened to my client and I’m sure when Mr. FP noticed this he went in for the kill including becoming power of attorney. Now Mr. FP had full control. Thank God that’s when the cousin also stepped in and took over – Good Call!  But what if she didn’t…..?  It could have been even more disastrous.

Carolyn Rosenblatt suggests getting involved with your elderly loved ones early in the game before something does happen. If they consent, and don’t use online banking, open an online record of their account(s) and monitor the transactions every so often. If anything questionable shows up, ask your loved one about it.

If online monitoring is not possible, the least you can do is talk to your elderly loved one – bring things up in conversation – talk about lotteries, contests, phone calls, etc. Let them know about possible scams – educate them and make them aware of possible scams going around.

I live only 1 mile from my mom and although I don’t have to worry about things like this with her now, we occasionally have private conversations so that I have a pretty good idea about her finances and regular practices with her money. This way if something did happen I wouldn’t go in completely blind. I think that’s a good start.