In recent news, a scam artist was sentenced to 92 years in jail, two swindlers were arrested for tricking an elderly woman out of the multi-million dollar property she had owned for 40 years, and a home care worker bilked a frail elder out of her life’s savings of $350,000.
My mother is 90 and receives over 30 solicitation letters a week. She throws most away, but just last week asked about a check she received in the mail, it was allegedly a refund from an insurance company and the logo looked like the AAA logo, she called when I was there and the person on the line tried to convince her to deposit the check, but could not answer what the refund was for.
I told her I would take care of it and sent the letter to everyone dealing with scams.
I know that even if they stop this, there will be others like it.
Elders are particularly vulnerable to scams, especially when they are in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s because one of the first things to become impaired is one’s judgment about financial transactions. A person with “Mild Cognitive Impairment” as doctors call it often is living independently, paying taxes on time, and otherwise appearing socially normal. For a time.
Professional thieves have studied what makes elders vulnerable. Elders are truly sitting ducks, easy prey. Isolation, confusion forgetfulness, and fears about running out of money can all drive the susceptibility to enter into a “deal” with a clever scammer.
Here are seven ways to protect your elderly parents:
This is critical. Call them, get to know their neighbors, and check in with them. Visit as often as you can.
Realize it is a big RED flag if someone is with your parents either visiting them or living with them and will not let you see or talk to them you should contact an Elder Law Attorney.
Ask to be a co-signer on their main account.
If your parents will allow you to be added to their account you can monitor their account.
Have Your Parent Sign a Power of Attorney.
A power of attorney will enable you to take over the finances and pay your parent’s bills. It can enable you to talk to the Bank and if necessary take the steps necessary to prevent access to accounts by the scammer.
Make Sure All Estate Planning Documents (Wills and Trusts) are up to date.
An Estate Plan for someone with dementia needs to be designed specially so that the person with dementia is able to maintain some control as long as possible while making sure the person is protected.
Further, you need to consult with an Elder Law Attorney who understands how to qualify for Medi-Cal, Veteran’s Benefits other ways to help pay for care.
Provide Connections with Others.
If possible try to find activities they can participate in where they are not alone. If your church or synagogue has a program where people visit shut-ins make sure your parents are on the list for visits.
Talk about Mail and Calls.
Bad guys don’t obey the laws designed to help consumers stop unwanted mail and calls. Ask about the mail that came that day and about calls listen for anything that sounds amiss. Realize that they forget things, so if they mention something that sounds wrong, check it out.
Talk to their Accountant.
If your parents have an accountant, ask to meet with the accountant. Let the accountant know that you are worried about your parents.
Try to get your parents and the accountant to make you a part of their team. The family accountant can help you understand what your parents own, and help you organize all the information so you can make sure you know where all their assets are.
If you are worried about your parents and want to ensure they are protected Martha Patterson has the personal experience and the legal knowledge to help you.
As part of an elite group of attorneys Certified as Elder Law Attorneys by the National Elder Law Foundation, she has studied dementia and Alzheimer’s and the special legal strategies to protect the Elderly and those living with disabilities.