Fraud Among the Elderly

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By William Francavilla, Special for USADC


You are an integral part of helping to end fraud among the elderly. Gary H. Lane, a former financial advisor, was found guilty of taking $2.7 million form six investors. These were older investors who were persuaded to let him make investments through an e* Trade account that was outside his business practice. At the time, Lane had been an advisor with Merrill Lynch. He had been an advisor for over 30 years. His wife would deposit the money to the e*Trade account, and Lane would then access the account to pay for personal expenses or to satisfy other investors. He was sentenced to ten years in prison.


The U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada, Daniel G. Bogden, said, “Beware of persons who offer better interest rates than traditional sources. They prey on the elderly and unsophisticated and will use numerous methods to steal your money. If you do not know if an investment opportunity is legitimate, it is always better to investigate the person and company before turning over any money.”


Sage counsel from the U.S. Attorney but it is often too late to save the victim from irreparable financial harm.


Fraud takes many shapes when the elderly are targeted. Older people may be living by themselves for the first time. They may have diminished mental capacity or maybe are simply lonely and thus welcome the call and attention from a “nice sounding” person. The bad guys know exactly who they’re looking for. They seek out the most vulnerable among us and people who have reached a certain age are clearly in this demographic.


My research began over two years ago and what was first intended to be an exposé of the liberties taken by so-called financial professionals quickly evolved to include several other breaches of trust. The AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) in fact, have determined that the top six scams in America include Romance, Home Repair, Health Care, Charities, Grandparent’s Scam and of course, financial investment. (Sid Kirchener, “Busted: Con Artists Exposed, AARP Bulletin, January-February, 2014.) Of course, these scammers are continuing to adapt to new and more sinister scams like the IRS scam, the Medicare card, jury duty, Wal-Mart shopper, and other scams too numerous to mention.


The constant among all these is the target market. And, yes, it is not exclusive to older Americans. Literally hundreds of thousands of younger people are duped into surrendering their hard earned dollars each year. Very often these events are either not reported or grossly under reported. Lets’ face it, its embarrassing.


This Sunday, September 9th is Grandparent’s Day. What better courtesy or gesture of love can we give to Nana or Papa than the act of caring and taking an active role in their financial lives? And it doesn’t have to be difficult or intrusive. For instance, I recommend starting with a simple conversation. “Nana, there are a lot of confusing phone calls, emails or letters that arrive bearing our names. Calls from the IRS demanding money for back taxes owed or calls from financial advisors who might suggest you cash in your certificates of deposit for an investment that will pay more interest or even knocks on the door from home repair people. Do you ever get any of these?”


This invites the opportunity to review the several other scams in our society and to pledge support to our grandmother. One of my favorite schemes to out-scam the scammers is to simply instruct Nana to say, “Please call my daughter (son, grandson, etc.) they make all my financial decisions.” Trust me, you’ll never get a call. Another very helpful tactic is to assist with the mail. Be there when the mail arrives and not only sort through but also tell your loved one that so much of the mailed pieces are only interested in getting your money. When my late uncle entered his late eighties, he really needed this help. He would buy warranties for appliances he didn’t own, double order subscriptions, apply for “guaranteed” insurance policies priced to the extreme. He even bought a computer that he never took out of the box.


Another legal measure you can take is to request duplicate statements from banks and brokerage accounts to certify spending is not out of control. One generous grandfather I knew couldn’t say no to any offer that came with the pretense of a certain religious faith. I determined that these were offshoot requests that really had no benefit to the church and engaged a family member to intercede.


Flattery is also very seductive so when a “friend request” email arrives suggesting that an attractive younger person wants to communicate regularly, end it. Lonely people respond illogically.


There is another measure we can take to help our grandparents or parents. We can suggest power of attorney status. This takes many forms and is beyond the scope of this article but contact an attorney who can walk you and your loved one through the many intricacies.


Honor your grandparents this Sunday, and every day by being there as their advocate and beloved family member.



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