Seniors are one of the most vulnerable groups in our society. Far too often unscrupulous people prey upon this vulnerability. If you know a senior who may be experiencing abuse of any kind, it’s important to understand the warning signs and guide them to help quickly.
Abuse by a Relative, Caregiver, or Neighbor
Sadly, far too often a senior is targeted by someone that they know and trust. This could be a caregiver, a neighbor, or a relative.
While bruises, abrasions, or bedsores might be obvious signs of physical elder abuse, improprieties concerning a senior’s finances often are more hidden. If you have suspicions, it is imperative that you look, listen, and ask questions. Has a neighbor or relative suddenly began “stopping by” the senior’s home on a regular basis? Are valuable items missing from the home? Has the senior abruptly decided to change their will or began making large “gifts” to a family member or caregiver? Have they suddenly become withdrawn or overly secretive about their finances?
If any of these red flags are spotted, you must immediately begin asking difficult questions and, if necessary, review your loved one’s finances and bank statements to identify and stop potential abuse.
Telephone and Online Scams
Every year more and more seniors become victims of financial abuse by strangers who contact them by telephone or the Internet. As with most scams, the best defense is a solid education. Simply knowing that these kinds of scams are out there can be protective.
- Grandparent Scams
Grandparents obviously have a soft spot for their grandchildren. Grandchild scams are becoming more commonplace – and more sophisticated – so it is important for older men and women to be aware of how this scam usually works.
In the typical scheme, the scammer will call the senior, claiming to be their grandchild and saying they need money. Sometimes the supposed grandchild will say they lost their wallet, or claim they are in a foreign country and are in legal trouble. The common theme of this scam is that the “grandchild” will claim he or she is in trouble and that they need money immediately.
Grandparents who fall for these scams are often in a panic, legitimately concerned for the safety of their loved ones. In such an emotional state, they may be less suspicious than they would otherwise be, causing them to wire thousands of dollars to far-off locations, buy thousands of dollars of gift cards, and/or give up personal information that will cause them to be victimized yet again.
- Romance and Catfishing Scams
Finding romance later in life is exciting, and many websites and dating apps cater to senior citizens. Unfortunately, these online avenues can also serve as gateways for scam artists to contact seniors.
Some scams involve real people who present themselves as being romantically interested in a senior when, in reality, they are targeting them for their cash. After beginning the relationship, the scammer may claim their car broke down or their home has been burglarized and that they need a loan to recover. The scammer then disappears after obtaining the money.
In other cases the scammer claims to be someone else entirely, often using photos stolen off the web to create a false persona and rope in their elderly victims. This unique — and fast-growing — form of fraud is known as “catfishing.” It is imperative for users of dating sites to know of this fraud so they can protect themselves from becoming a victim.
Be aware of the signs, including a supposed romantic partner your elderly loved one has never met or constant claims of financial struggle on the part of the love interest. While tt may seem like you’re intruding upon their personal life, early intervention could save your elderly loved one from a lifetime of emotional and financial damage.
- Social Security Scams
Many senior citizens rely on Social Security for part or even all of their income. This makes them especially vulnerable to Social Security scams. These scams take a number of different forms depending on what the perpetrators are trying to do and what they hope to gain from their crimes.
In some cases, the scammer will claim to be from the Social Security Administration. They may tell the victim that their Social Security account has been compromised, or that their payments are on hold. The scammer will then request personal information or money in order to remedy the issue.
In other cases, the scam artist may pretend that the victim’s Social Security card needs to be replaced, and that they need the senior’s Social Security Number to authorize the replacement. Then, armed with this highly sensitive information, they commit identity fraud and take out loans using their good name.
The California legislature has enacted the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, providing for specific and enhanced remedies for victims of financial or physical elder abuse. With the help of an experienced firm like the Law Offices of Robert L. Hill, victims may be able to receive up to three times their actual monetary losses, as well as punitive damages and attorney’s fees. If you’ve noticed signs of financial elder abuse, it is imperative that you call us at 760-448-4425 for a free consultation. We are here to help.