Austin – 512-480-8828 | *Georgetown – 512-869-1435 | *Highland Lakes – 830-598-1700 | *San Antonio – 210-510-4143 | *All other areas – 877-545-8828 | *By Appointment Only | Principal Office: 1601 Rio Grande, Suite 550, Austin, Texas 78701
The Wiewel Law Firm, an estate planning law firm in Austin, Texas
The Peace of Mind People®

Category: Elder Abuse

Social isolation increases elder financial abuse

Social Isolation Increases Elder Financial Abuse

Social isolation increases elder financial abuse. Whether because of a pandemic or because an elderly person is alone, it is a leading factor contributing to the financial exploitation of seniors. The necessity of quarantining for older adults because of COVID has increased the number of people vulnerable to elder financial abuse, reports the article “Social Isolation and the Risk of Investment Fraud” from NASDAQ.com.

Financial abuse can take place at any time during a person’s life. However, scammers typically strike during times when seniors are more susceptible. It is usually during a health crisis, after the death of a loved one, or when younger family members live far away.

Scammers get information about their prospective victims by reading the obituaries and social media. They also become involved with senior social and support groups to ingratiate themselves into seniors’ lives.

Combine social isolation with lessening cognitive capacity and the situation is ripe for a scam. Senior investors are often flattered when their new-found friends praise their superior understanding of investment opportunities. Decreased judgment paired with a lifetime of savings is a welcome mat for thieves, especially when friends and family members are not able to visit and detect changes indicating that something bad is occurring.

Widowed or divorced seniors are more likely to be a victim of elder financial abuse. People who suffer from isolation, more and more often turn to the internet as a social outlet. Research shows that people are contacted by scammers through social media or pop-up messages on websites. Those who are dependent and engage more frequently in online life are more likely to engage with a scammer and lose more money than those who are targeted by phone or scamming emails.

How to protect yourself or your aging parents from fraud during quarantine

Scammers isolate their victims. Talk with family, friends, your estate planning attorney, or financial advisor for advice before making any decisions.

Do your homework first. If you don’t know how to do an internet search to see if the website or the person is a scammer, talk with a family member or professional advisor who can. Don’t invest money, unless you fully understand the risks and can verify the legitimacy of the offer and the company involved.

Educate yourself about finances and investments. This is a good project for people with too much time on their own. There are many worthwhile websites where you can learn about investments and finances. Look for well-known financial publishing companies. Don’t bother with marginal websites—that’s where fraudsters lurk.

Don’t be embarrassed to file a complaint. If you think you have been defrauded, you can file a complaint with the SEC, FINRA, and your state securities regulator. Your estate planning attorney will also know what resources you can tap to defend yourself.

Warning Signs of Elder Financial Abuse:

  • A new “friend” who suddenly appears and tries to keep family and friends away.
  • Someone who presses you to provide financial information and passwords to accounts.
  • Fear or anxiety when a certain person calls or sends a text.
  • Sudden and unexplained changes in estate planning documents or beneficiary designations.
  • Anyone who asks for passwords to financial accounts.

Generally speaking, anyone who promises a high return with no risk is not telling the truth. The same goes for anyone who tells you that you need to act fast.

Social isolation increases elder financial abuse.  Keep Seniors who are socially distant in touch with family and friends through phone calls, and if they can manage the devices, by video chat. Regular contact goes a long way in preventing strangers with bad intentions from insinuating themselves into your life or your parent’s lives.

If you would like to learn more about elder financial abuse, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: NASDAQ.com (Feb. 11, 2021) “Social Isolation and the Risk of Investment Fraud”

Read our books

charitable contribution deductions from an estate

What is the Seniors Fraud Prevention Act?

In 2013, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) worked with his colleague, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) to introduce the “Seniors Fraud Prevention Act” which broadens the role of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in monitoring and offering response systems for seniors who are victims of fraud. So what is the Seniors Fraud Prevention Act?

They’ve been advocating for their bill for seven years. The two Congressmen revived it in April 2019, with the support of U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT).

Florida Daily’s recent article entitled “Florida Congressmen Get Seniors Fraud Prevention Act Through the House” reports that U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have been the champions of the bill for the past two years in the Senate.

“Scams set up specifically to go after American seniors and their hard-earned money are particularly despicable,” Deutch said when he introduced the bill in April 2019. “For the millions of American seniors, many of whom live on fixed incomes, they should not have to worry about losing everything in their bank accounts because of extremely deceptive scams. They should be able to depend on their government and law enforcement to protect their financial security from fraud and scams.”

Deutch was able to add the bill into U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester’s (D-DE) “Stop Senior Scams Act,” which passed the House on a voice vote recently. Deutch was a co-sponsor of the bill. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) is working on the legislation in the Senate.

“Scams targeting seniors are becoming increasingly sophisticated and deceptive,” Deutch said on Tuesday. “To protect our seniors, many of whom live on fixed incomes and could lose a life’s worth of savings, we need a stronger response in tracking, targeting and warning against new scams. I hope the Senate will move quickly on this bill that could help seniors protect their assets.”

“Seniors have worked their entire lives with the promise of a safe and secure retirement,” Buchanan said. “Scams targeting the elderly are growing at a disturbing rate and threaten more than retirement accounts – they imperil the independence and trust of an already vulnerable community.”

The Seniors Fraud Prevention Act now is headed to the Senate.

“We must ensure all Americans have safety and dignity in their senior years, especially as we confront the coronavirus pandemic. New schemes designed to defraud seniors appear almost daily. These aren’t simply a nuisance—these scams can wipe out an entire life savings. Passing this bipartisan legislation is a critical step to combat fraud targeting seniors,” Klobuchar said.

If you would like to learn more about scams involving seniors, and other elder care issues, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Florida Daily (Nov. 18, 2020) “Florida Congressmen Get Seniors Fraud Prevention Act Through the House”

 

charitable contribution deductions from an estate

Elder Financial Abuse on the Rise during the Pandemic

The same isolation that is keeping seniors safe during the pandemic is also making them easier targets for scammers, reports WKYC in a news report “Northeast Ohio family warns of elder financial exploitation.” While this report concerns a family in Ohio, seniors and families across the country are seeing elder financial abuse on the rise during the pandemic.

Two brothers enjoyed spending their time together throughout their lives. However, for the last three years, one of them, Michael Pekar, has been trying to undo a neighbor’s theft of his brother Ronnie’s estate. A few months before Ronnie died from cancer, a neighbor got involved with his finances, gained Power of Attorney and began stealing Ronnie’s life savings.

The money, more than a million dollars, had been saved for the sons by their mother. Pekar went to see an attorney, who helped uncover a sum of about $1.6 million that had been transferred from Ronnie into other accounts. A civil complaint was filed against the woman and $700,000 was eventually recovered, but nearly $1 million will never be recovered.

How can you prevent this from happening to your loved ones, especially those who are isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic?

An elderly person who is isolated is vulnerable. Long stretches of time without family contact make them eager for human connection. If someone new suddenly inserts themselves into your loved one’s life, consider it a red flag. Are new people taking over tasks of bill paying, or driving them to a bank, lawyer, or financial professional’s office? It might start out as a genuine offer of help but may not end that way.

The person committing the elder financial abuse does not have to be a stranger. In most cases, family members, like nieces, nephews or other relatives, prey on the isolated elderly person. The red flag is a sudden interest that was never there before.

Changes to legal or financial documents are a warning sign, especially if those documents have gone missing. Unexpected trips to attorneys you don’t know or switching financial advisors without discussing changes with children are another sign that something is happening. So are changes to email addresses and phone numbers. If your elderly aunt who calls every Thursday at 3 pm stops calling, or you can’t reach her, someone may be controlling her communications.

According to the CDC, about one in ten adults over age 60 are abused, neglected, or financially exploited.

With elder financial abuse on the rise during the pandemic, be sure to check in more frequently on elderly family members. Increased isolation can lead them to rely on others, making them vulnerable. I you would like to learn more about elder abuse, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: WKYC (Nov. 19, 2020) “Northeast Ohio family warns of elder financial exploitation.”