“My grandfather lost everything!” Sarah declared. “They took his life savings. And now when he needs to money to pay for a nice assisted living he doesn’t have it. I am so angry about this. I don’t know what we will do. I guess my mom and I will try to care for him as best we can. After all, he was always there for us. But it’s not what he wanted. He feels embarrassed and he is pretty depressed also.”
Financial scams are rampant. And the prime target is our senior citizens. The people running these scams are clever and convincing. They know which buttons to push. And they know how to trigger the emotions like fear and worry.
Furthermore, these scammers know that the risk is low. Many seniors are too embarrassed to tell others what has happened. So, they often go unreported. The bad guys are counting on this.
But don’t think they just target the wealthy. No indeed. Seniors who are already struggling can fall prey also. Often losing what little they had.
The Grandparent Scam
Yes, this one has been around a long time. And yet many seniors are still falling prey to this one.
A child will call ad usually ask Hi Grandma or Grandpa do you know who this is? The victim of this scam will then usually say a child’s name giving the scammer the information they need. Then they will pull on the heartstrings confessing to the grandparent that they have gotten into some trouble and need some help. They beg the senior not to tell mom and dad because they will be in big trouble. Then they ask for money (for overdue rent, car repairs, etc.) They will ask that the money is sent by western union or Moneygram because ID is often not required to collect. The amount is usually in the hundreds and may be repeated.
There are a lot of different investment schemes that target seniors. Seniors are often concerned because they are no longer working. They are looking for ways to grow what money they have left to keep up with the high cost of living. Pyramid schemes like Bernie Madoff’s targeted a lot of seniors. And the Nigerian prince looking for a partner to claim inheritance money is still targeting our most vulnerable seniors.
You may have trouble believing that your parent could fall victim to one of these scams.
But it happens. Sometimes cognitive impairment or Dementia is to blame. Family members may not even be aware that Dad is having a problem with his memory and though process. Parents are often very good at hiding their problems from the children. And the adult child often does not want to see that there is a problem. Dad is just eccentric, they believe. That is until the money is gone.
Telemarketing and Phone Scams
It is no surprise that telemarketers target older folks. They are often home alone all day. As such they will gladly pick up the phone and chat with the nice person on the other end. These smart scammers also know that seniors make twice as many purchases over the phone than the national average.
And these scams are incredibly hard to trace. There is no paper trail and no face to face interaction. Furthermore, once a successful scam has taken place, the buyer’s name is then shared with similar schemers looking for easy targets.
“Luckily my sister decided to help mom with her banking. Unfortunately, it was too late to save her from losing some of what little money she had. Sharon noticed that Mom had an automatic withdrawal on her account. For the last 6 months someone was withdrawing $150 a month. When questioned Mom seemed confused. The bank could not stop the transactions because the scammers had a recording of mom agreeing to the monthly withdrawals. Our banker said that most likely they engaged mom in a conversation and recorded it. They then spliced together the right words to make it sound like she had agreed. We ended up having to close out the bank account and start a new one somewhere else.” ~Kay
There are a number of different telemarketing scams that go around.
The key is to pay attention to what is going on in mom or dad’s life. Ask them if they would like some help with the finances. This can be a touchy subject. But it is smart to have someone on the account to monitor any unusual behavior. If you are able to go in weekly and look at the transaction you may be able to stop a problem before it gets out of control.
Make sure your children tell their grandparents that they will never call them for money. Furthermore, make sure they understand that this is a scam when it happens. They should tell the person on the other line that they will call them back. Then hang up immediately and call their grandchild.
Hopefully, this never happens to you or someone you love. But if it does tell others so they will not fall prey to the same problems.