Gayle Reeves' Blog

Do not be a Victim

Gayle A. Reeves - Tuesday, November 04, 2014

              I recently attended a seminar on Financial Elder Abuse hosted by Serving Our Seniors in Erie County.  The presenters identified 5 main types of financial abuse and exploitation.  Contractor/Gypsy Fraud, Family Fraud, Scammers, Caregiver Fraud, and Nursing Home Fraud.

            Contractor/Gypsy Fraud is very common during the spring and summer months.  A person appears at your door and tells you that you need a new driveway, door, siding, chimney work, etc.  They offer to do the work for what seems like a reasonable sum of money.  You pay the person and they never return to do the work or they do enough work to make a huge mess and leave you to find a way to clean it up.  You have just been scammed.  These con artists can target the homes of seniors just by looking for some basic items – unkempt landscaping, outdoor carpeting on front porch and steps, old aluminum screen door, homeowner initial on garage or front door, yard ornaments or figurines, older model vehicle.  Never hire anyone who just appears at your door and never pay in advance.  Use reputable contractors for work you know you need to have done.

            Despite all of the warnings more and more people are taken advantage of by scammers.  This may be as simple as a telephone call claiming you won a prize, which you may claim simply by sending in money to cover processing and insurance fees.  I have even it where the scammer sends you a check on the pretense of covering these costs.  You are instructed to deposit the check into your bank account, write a check for the amount back to the scammer, and your prize will be sent.  In reality, their check bounces, yours clears, and your money is gone.  No prize is ever sent.  Once a scammer has you hooked, they will increase the amounts of money that they ask you to send.  Remember – if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

            Unfortunately, sometimes the people that we should be able to trust the most will take advantage of us.  Family members, caregivers, and even some disreputable nursing homes will prey on the senior.  What we usually see in these circumstances is a new friend, long lost relative, or caregiver interferes with the family relationships by isolating the senior from family, friends, and social ties, creating negative attitudes towards the family and friends, taking the senior to a new doctor or attorney, and interfering with any outside efforts to assist the senior.  This new best friend then starts the process of getting control over the senior’s property.  Once the senior has nothing left, the person moves on to their next victim.

            If you or someone you know has experienced or is experiencing any type of financial abuse, you should both call your local police department and the elder abuse hotline (adult protective services) to report the abuse.  Many crimes of exploitation go unreported because the senior is too embarrassed to tell anyone.  As with any crime, remember it is not your fault.  These con artists and scammers are experienced and smooth when it comes to convincing someone to part with their money.  The only way to stop them is to report the crime.  This applies to family members as well as strangers.  I have seen any number of seniors who have been taken advantage of by their own children, yet still cannot bring themselves to have the child held accountable for their actions.

            Some helpful websites are www.preventelderabuse.org, consumerfinance.gov and aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.