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Protecting Elderly Relatives From Fraud and Scams

We hear about the dangers of young children using the internet without supervision but when have you taken the time to supervise the use of the internet by elderly relatives?

Baby Boomers Need Online Help

The internet did not exist when Baby Boomers were teens or young adults. If they wanted to transfer money, they would physically go to the bank. Depending on their banking relationship, they could also make a phone call and have money transferred. Today, money transfers can happen with one click, and many times, one click can create a financial disaster.

When Your Elderly Relatives Sign Electronically

Permission was granted to Wouch Maloney to share the following with our readers.

Earlier this year, the parents of one of our clients learned an expensive lesson regarding their refusal to embrace technology. The parents, both octogenarians, believe in paper and pens, checks and cash. Their refusal to learn the basics of technology cost them tens of thousands of dollars after a nice stranger offered to come to their home and set up an annuity.

This nice stranger did everything on an electric tablet. He impressed the octogenarians with his ability to have them sign on glass, not paper. As this stranger clicked through the form, he had to ask for information regarding beneficiaries, including social security numbers. They believed the stranger was very trustworthy. He had a business card that said he was a financial advisor plus he had company brochures with him.

Signing your name using an electronic tablet.
Elderly persons may become victims of fraud or scams if they are not familiar with technology.

As the two octogenarians continued to overshare information that they had in their address books, this stranger set up their annuity with a phone number that belonged to someone else. Without the correct phone number, the couple had no access to their account. But someone else did. The stranger also added a beneficiary that was not the intended beneficiary.

Seeing a Red Flag

After a few months, the attentive stranger stopped calling. About 12 months later, a letter arrived informing the couple that they needed to verify their contact information. That is when they learned that their phone number was incorrect and the nightmare of recovering the majority of their life savings began.

Asking for help

It wasn’t until a family member familiar with elder fraud explained to the couple that they were victims of a scam. Within two days of submitting a report to the appropriate state officials, the nice stranger was no longer nice. He made demands to the couple. Within two weeks of the state officials stepping in, a check for 80% of their initial annuity agreement was received. While the couple did not receive 100%, they were relieved to recover any amount as not all victims of scams are as fortunate.

Extending an Olive Branch to Help the Technically Challenged

The learning curve when delving into a new subject varies for everyone. Patience when helping a stranger is often easier than helping someone you know, especially a parent or relative. Some members of the Baby Boomer generation refuse to learn how to use technology and continue to depend on the generosity of strangers willing to type in their Personal Identifiable Information (PII).

If you have a family member or neighbor who isn’t savvy with technology, take the time to ask them questions to find out if they need online help with their banking, investments or even setting up their monthly auto-payments. It’s better to be proactive with questions and taking time to set up accounts before they receive an offer from an unscrupulous individual.

Report Elder Financial Abuse

If you or someone you know has been the victim of a scam or fraud involving financial exploitation, be certain to report it to the appropriate government agencies as well as your local banks, financial institutions, social security office, police department (if threatened or in immediate danger), and credit reporting agencies.

National Elder Fraud Hotline: 833–FRAUD–11
Eldercare Locator: If you feel you have been financially abused, report it immediately. Find your local adult protective services (APS) agency through the Eldercare Locator or by calling 1-800-677-1116.
Pennsylvania: Statewide Abuse Reporting Hotline at 1-800-490-8505.
Florida:  ElderAffairs.org or call 1-800-963-5337
New Jersey:  Department of Human Services, Division of Aging Services 800-792-8820

We want to thank our client for giving us permission to share this story. It serves as a reminder to check in on those who may need help with technology to avoid or reduce fraud and scams.

DISCLAIMER: The WM Daily Update, WM Wednesday Wisdom, Newsletters, and other related communications are intended to provide general information as of the date of this communication and may reference information from reputable sources. Although our firm has made every reasonable effort to ensure that the information provided is accurate, we make no warranties, expressed or implied, on the information provided. As legislative efforts are still ongoing, we expect that there may be additional guidance and clarification from regulators that may modify some of the provisions in this communication. Some of those modifications may be significant. As such, be aware that this is not a comprehensive analysis of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide specific recommendations to you or your business with respect to the matters addressed.