May 09, 2018
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Seniors are victims more often than other age groups.
Seniors are victims more often than persons from other age groups. This is because they may have accumulated more savings over time, and are experiencing increased dependency on others because of diminishing physical and mental capacity.
Financial scams targeting seniors are common. One survey found that almost 20 percent of those 65 and older have been the victim of a financial swindle. And that is only of those who know they were victimized. Many seniors never realize – or at least never admit – that they were scammed.
Fortunately, seniors and their children can take steps to reduce the likelihood of being victimized.
The first step is to recognize the signs that someone may be a target of financial abuse by a stranger, a family member, or a caregiver. Those signs include:
What should you do if you think you or a loved one has been the victim of a financial scam?
Seek out a person or institution that you trust – such as your accountant, attorney, or trusted financial advisor – about who to contact to investigate what happened to the senior’s funds and assets. Don’t delay, the longer you wait to do something the less likely you will be able to recover your money.
The office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General operates a free Elder Abuse Helpline at 1-866-623-2137. It can also be reached by email to [email protected].
If you think your parents are at risk of being financially victimized, talk to them. Ask to see paperwork associated with the possible scam or abuse. Look over their mail for “prize alerts” or questionable charitable requests for money. Review their documents, receipts and financial statements to determine whether they are receiving the services and returns that they paid for.
Be alert for possible signs of dementia – even a modest decline in memory and judgment can make an individual susceptible to being victimized. Financial abusers target persons with diminished capacity.
Don’t be put off if your parents seem reluctant to discuss your concerns. Victims of financial abuse are often embarrassed to talk about it, or they may be unaware that they have been victimized. Get their permission to talk with their financial advisor or their accountant. If you suspect that your parent or loved one has been the victim of financial abuse, contact an attorney for advice.
Don’t just sit back and accept the painful loss of savings and security from scams targeting seniors. Take action.
Larry Frolik is a Distinguished Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. A nationally known expert on the legal issues of the elderly, he currently serves on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Advisory Council on Elder Justice in the Courts.