Recently at my brokers/dealers national conference, I attended a seminar on protecting seniors from financial fraud. The elderly are victims of thousands of schemes each year, with billions of dollars being stolen from them.
The seminar started off with a gut-wrenching story from our general counsel, whose parents were scammed out of $4,500 from a late-night caller pretending to be a bond bailsman telling them that their grandson had been in an accident and to release him from custody they needed to wire money immediately. The caller even went on to tell this elderly couple not to call the boy’s parents because he didn’t want them to know. As crazy as this may sound, schemes like this, which prey on the elderly, are taking place every day.
As we age or watch our parents and grandparents age, the threat of financial exploitation grows exponentially; at the same time, aging increases the possibility of cognitive decline.
AARP published a very good piece that addresses some red flags to watch out for. If you, a friend, or a trusted caregiver recognizes these signs, please proceed with heightened awareness and take action or seek help.
Social Red Flags
- Your loved one or friend informs you they have a new, particularly close friend or “sweetheart” and /or they move away from existing relationships toward new associates.
- The person is being isolated by family or a caregiver as a result of life changes.
- He or she appears or sounds like they are being “coached” by another individual.
- The person has an overly trusting personality or a temperament susceptible to manipulation.
Physical Red Flags
- Your friend or loved one indicates that items are missing from their home.
- He or she demonstrates a lack of responsiveness or inability to follow through with a decision.
- He or she repeatedly calls seeking the same information.
- He or she requests frequent password/username resets.
- He or she has a disheveled appearance or poor hygiene.
Behavioral Red Flags
- Your friend or loved one has become fearful, distrustful, and withdrawn.
- He or she has memory lapses and confusion over accounts.
- The person exhibits changes in their normal routine.
- He or she has mood swings.
Proceed with caution, there may be abuse.
- Does this person have a family member or others who are financially dependent on him or her who are taking an excessive interest in their finances?
- Is the person reluctant to discuss personal financial matters that were previously a matter of standard practice?
- Has your friend or loved one been denied access to their account statements or funds by someone?
- Has he or she had an unexpected address change on their accounts?
- Are there atypical or unexplained withdrawals, wire transfers, debit transactions, or other changes in this person’s financial habits?
- Has your friend or loved one abruptly changed their will, trust, power of attorney, or beneficiaries of their accounts?
Having an open and fluid dialogue with your parents and/or grandparents about their finances will help you stay informed and hopefully pick up on things out of the norm. Keep a copy of their will, trusts, and power of attorney. Discuss with them scams that are going on, whether it is the lottery or a call from the IRS. The IRS does not call you. The best suggestion is for them to hang up on these calls and call you immediately.