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Protecting Our Elderly From Scammers

It is difficult to see our parents advancing in age. The same two people who raised you and did their best to provide a comfortable home, a moral and spiritual foundation, a good education, and a loving environment are now getting up there. And whether they and you admit it or not, the tables are turned and now they need you. Although a natural process, they are no longer as physically (and sometimes mentally) agile as they once were, and right before your eyes they change from the mom and dad who were once strong and seemingly omnipotent to people whom others now see as prey.

Gone Are the Days of the Good Old Fashioned Muggings

Remember the good old days when your biggest fear was that your mom might have her purse snatched or that your dad could have his wallet stolen? Hoping they didn’t get seriously harmed in the process, the three biggest pains meant getting a new driver’s license, replacing credit cards, and spending an evening in night court. The nightmare was usually over shortly after the mugging occurred.

While muggings still occur, today a stolen wallet usually turns into a months-long saga with back and forths to the credit reporting agencies and prayers that everything your parents worked so hard to achieve isn’t now in ruins thanks to identity theft.

Scams Can Happen to Anyone and Have the Potential to Devastate

Whether a one-time scam that leaves a senior poorer by no more than $500, or one that builds over a period of months and can total losses in excess of $100,000, $200,000 or more, the result is the same. One person or group of people has made out like bandits and another sits in shame and wonders how on earth he or she was duped! If the victim hasn’t been stripped of his entire ego, with his tail between his legs, that will probably happen when a complaint is made to the police or an admission is made to the kids.

It is almost impossible to open the paper without seeing yet another sordid drama unfolding about a terrible person who has taken advantage of the elderly. A vulnerable population for certain, the FBI reports receiving hundreds of complaints a week from people who have been victim of unspeakable crimes or whose loved ones have been. The majority of these cases are financial, and sadly some involve family members who are committing devious acts against their own relatives.

It’s easy to read these articles and feel the distance between the people in them and your family. But with more than 40 million people over the age of 65 and hundreds of complaints received each week, you can do the math. The odds of it happening to someone you know and love is not as far off as you think. Bad people who commit crimes against the elderly don’t care about the victims’ race, religion, or socioeconomic background. They could care less that their target is living on a small pension, on social security, live all by themselves, have a disability, have dementia, or was voted the “best grandpa of the year” by his family. It’s not as though belonging to a certain demographic precludes your loved one from becoming a victim. In the eyes of a predator, they are crimes of opportunity. They don’t have the time, the heart, or the patience to care about who they are ripping off. And with a new crop entering their senior years every single day, there’s no such thing as market saturation.

Maybe you think to yourself, “My mom is way too sharp for that,” or “My dad was a drill sergeant. There’s no way anyone is going con him.” But then who are these hundreds of people? And for every case reported, it’s estimated that four more go unreported.

It’s Time to Have That Tough Conversation

This isn’t Las Vegas or Atlantic City. You can’t take a gamble that this won’t happen to your parents. You can’t assume because you think they’re too smart for this, they are impervious. Seniors are obviously no less intelligent than their adult kids, but they are typically far more trusting than those of us who have had more hard knocks in life.

Whether it’s your parents or some other loved one in your life who is vulnerable, it will be necessary to sit down and have a very frank discussion with them. Initially you might gather newspaper clippings and show them hard evidence of people who have been ripped off. Point out the various ways in which a seemingly nice man or woman walked into these people’s lives and literally turned them upside down. With an estimated $80 billion stolen (between property, cash, policies, and telemarketing fraud), doing a simple Google search will net you literally hundreds of articles.

In staying one step ahead of the criminals, you might also consider revisiting this conversation monthly. As the economy continues to backslide, imagine that if law-abiding people are considering new ways to make money and survive, so too are criminals. Keep abreast of the latest crimes perpetrated by thugs who target the elderly and as they develop new and exciting ways to harm them, you are ready to warn them.

According to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, these are currently the crimes of choice committed against the elderly. This site is updated frequently and as it is, you can update your loved ones.

  • Health fraud
  • Telemarketing scams
  • Home repair scams
  • Identity theft
  • Staged car crashes
  • Fraud involving real estate
  • Auto repair scams
  • “Sweetheart” fraud

Perhaps your conversation can start here.

Nobody likes to hear about an elderly person being taken for a ride. It’s despicable, completely amoral and akin to harming children. And while they aren’t children, they are equally vulnerable. Just as they did everything they could to see that you had a good life, the roles have reversed. And while there is no easy way to discuss this or to have to hear it, the potential for devastation far outweighs the awkwardness of such a conversation.

©2011 Off the Grid News

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