“Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.” ~ Mark Twain
Question: What should I do if I see what I think may be financial exploitation or abuse of a senior neighbor who lives alone who has shown signs of diminished capacity?
Answer: Your questions couldn’t be more timely and appropriate. April 3, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released warnings that scams specifically targeting seniors are increasing during the Coronavirus Pandemic. The financial and emotional stress of Coronavirus brings out the worst in some. However, there is no excuse for taking advantage of others, especially those who are most vulnerable.
If you’re concerned that someone is a risk, and after speaking to that individual or reaching out to a family member or trusted contact, you’re still troubled, it may be appropriate to visit these websites that provide resources and all calls are confidential www.reportabuse.dcf.state.fl.us or www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/adult-protective-services. Of course, if there’s immediate physical danger, call 911.
Financial impairment is often one of the earliest clinical signs of cognitive decline, and can be difficult to recognize. Someone may seem perfectly normal during a phone call or at a family get together, but their ability to effectively comprehend financial documents or concepts may be greatly diminished. Despite the difficulties in recognizing cognitive decline, it’s prevalent. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that every 65 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s, and 1 in 3 seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. It is important to be aware of signs of diminished capacity, such as memory loss, difficulty in performing basic tasks, declining communication skills, poor decision making, misplacing personal items, changes in behavior or personality, repetition of requests and difficulty understanding basic financial concepts. The FTC estimates that 84% of elder abuse, financial or otherwise, goes unreported, making it difficult to measure the total financial and emotional effect.
Older Americans hold the greatest percentage of the nation’s wealth, making them primary targets for scammers, unethical professionals and even family members. A MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse estimates an annual loss of approximately $2.9 billion nationwide. Victims are embarrassed, ashamed and depressed and typically don’t have the time or resources to recoup losses. This can cause existing health conditions to worsen. Elder financial exploitation has the second–highest 5-year mortality rate, second only to caregiver neglect. Exploited seniors are 4 times more likely to go into a nursing home.
Elder financial fraud and abuse devastates hundreds of thousands of seniors each year. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that 60% of the perpetrators of elder abuse or exploitation are family, 17% of exploitation are friends or neighbors, while 15% are home health aides. Most common red flags are a new best friend or sweetheart, third party coaching in the background, isolation and unusual banking transactions. Scams can occur in a number of ways; an opportunity seems too good to be true, a situation creating fear or sense of urgency, and a relationship that preys on loneliness.
Common Scam Situations:
IRS Scam – Criminals impersonating IRS employees call taxpayers in aggressive and sophisticated ways, sounding very convincing. Scam callers threaten arrest, deportation or license revocation if the victim doesn’t pay a bogus tax bill.
Grandparent Scam – Fraudsters call or email the victim posing as a relative in distress or someone claiming to be a lawyer or law enforcement agent representing a relative. The “relative” of the grandparent explains she is in trouble and needs funds wired immediately for bail money, attorney’s fees, hospital bills, or another fictitious expense, often asking Grandma not to inform their parents.
Advance Fee Scam – You’ll receive a monetary reward but must first pay some sort of fee or tax in advance. The most common forms are lottery or inheritance scams.
Romance Scam – Fake profiles on dating sites and apps, are created to attract vulnerable victims through popular social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, or Google Hangouts. Scammers patiently build trust by talking or chatting several times a day, then hey fabricate a story asking for money.
Between now and the year 2030, there will be 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each and every day. The exploitation of our senior population will only get worse. Trust your gut, if something doesn’t seem right it likely merits your attention. Know red flags that can indicate diminished capacity and financial exploitation. Most importantly speak up. Stay focused and plan accordingly.
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