Crimes Against the Elderly: Fraud, How The Scam Begins

Financial Fraud is a Growing Form of Elder Abuse

Bill confided in me today. He’s worried about his neighbor John. Their conversation from the previous day had left him disturbed. Bill said “I need to get home, I have an important phone call coming in.” “That sounds exciting” Bill said to John. “Who’s calling?”
Fraud Targeting the Elderly

“It’s my friend, Jake” reported John. “He’s calling with an update about some of my investments.”

Investments? This was news to Bill. He’d known John for years and never before had he heard of this Jake. Bill wondered if something might be amiss. They were not the closest of friends but he’d tried to be of support since John’s wife Pat passed away a few years ago.  Bill and John were always glad to see each other at church and often stopped to chat at the grocery.

What Bill didn’t realize was that John might be lonely. His late wife Pat had been their social organizer. She’d always been the one to suggest or plan activities or trips. She received all the invitations and had handled all the RSVPs. Now that he thought about it, Bill could not remember John mentioning any events or trips since Pat’s death.

In truth John was lonely. One day he received a call from a man named Jake who simply wanted to send him information about a product. The two continued to talk awhile with a seemingly casual conversation.  Jake promised to send John some information about an investment that was said to have a quick return on the dollar and John agreed to take a look at it.

A couple of days later Jake called back just to chat. He didn’t even ask if the information had been received or reviewed, he was just calling to shoot the breeze. A likeable fellow, Jake had a few things in common with Bill even though he was a few states away.

John agreed to join Jake in the venture. It was, after all, a small amount, and he did indeed garner a quick return on his small investment. When Jake called to share the good news he confided in John that he was working on some other ideas. Jake would be sure to call John if something came to pass that would be of interest to John.

Jake did call back a couple of months later and let John know that another opportunity was on the horizon. Did John want to be informed of it when it all came together? Indeed John did. Jake and John shared some stories about their military service, and as they hung up Jake promised to send information via email this time if that was alright. What was his address?

John found hope in the calls from his new-found friend, and success in his achievements of the small Investments made. Over the next six months Jake called with other opportunities, always supported with emailed flyers and documents. One day Jake confided in John that there was this one big deal brewing that may require a bit more of an investment, a bit more risk, but at this point John was only risking his profits, right?

John had two adult children who live out of state. Joyce and Tony knew nothing of their father’s friendship and financial transactions with Jake. When Joyce or Tony visited everything had seemed in order. Bill was his usual affable self and was getting along as a single fellow. John told them about attending church and seemed engaged in life, enjoying his retirement they thought.

Fraud that targets the elderly

Bill found that he was right to have his antenna up. After attending a workshop about senior fraud he realized John may be in trouble. Bill decided to ask John for a little more information about Jake. Upon doing so he confirmed his strong suspicions about the investments. “The ones lately not been as successful as those first ones” John admitted, “but Jake said it will rebound soon.” Bill was stunned as John proudly displayed the supporting literature for the investment opportunities. Pretty slick.

Fighting his own reservations about delving into another man’s business Bill decided that John was more important to him than his own pride. He would talk to one or both of John’s Adult Children when he got the chance. He’d understood that one of them was a banker.

The adult children sprang into action. It didn’t take long to determine that John was deep into his investing, and Jake was at the helm. Not all had been good ventures. It also appeared that John’s retirement funds had become severely diminished.

You know, one of the signs of cognitive decline among the elderly is that we lose our “filters.” Filters help us to determine what is right or wrong, too much or not enough, how others see us as opposed to how we see ourselves… Emotional response can remain unchanged. If we are lonely, or isolated, we will respond to kindness. Most of us will still wish to help others if we can. Without our social filters intact however we could misjudge situations. It’s a touchy time and rife with danger. And scammers know this.

We wish we could tell you that this was an isolated incident in NC. You are likely aware that it is playing out right now, every day, in every city, and in every state. Those who are adult children must become vigilant for their aging parents. As potential targets of fraud we all must become knowledgeable about senior scams and view our own vulnerability.

Those of us working in the senior industry must ‘HAVE THE CONVERSATION’ (a mantra at NAVIGATE NC). We must be ready to have a conversation with our families, our contemporaries, our financial professionals and on behalf of our elders. We must learn and we must teach. We need to arm our Team, our village.  Most importantly, we must be aware of changes in one of our teammates.

We’re not talking Gestapo-type awareness but general well-being awareness. You know, with kindness and consideration. We can look out for our neighbors, but with antennas up.

If the change you are noticing includes a change in filters let’s talk about that. As experts we will talk with you about -and plan- for change. Call us at (919) 628-4428 to schedule a free initial consultation or CONNECT WITH US via our website. We will dedicate time for you.


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