Sidestepping Scams

Seniors are especially vulnerable to scams and fraud. How does working with a Life Care Planning Law Firm help keep elderly loved ones out of harm's way?

Could your elderly loved one fall victim to a financial scam?

If you’re not asking this question, you should. As many as 17 percent of Americans 65 and older report being the victim of financial exploitation, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A 2015 report estimated that older Americans lose $36.5 billion each year to financial scams and abuse.

It’s not just wealthy seniors who are targeted. Low-income older adults are also at risk of financial abuse. And the fraudsters aren’t always strangers. Over 90% of all reported elder abuse is committed by members of an older person’s own family.

Each year, the National Council on Aging compiles a list of the top ten scams targeting seniors. The list includes Medicare/health insurance scams, counterfeit prescription drug scams, funeral and cemetery scams, fraudulent product scams, investment schemes, reverse mortgage scams, sweepstakes and lottery scams, phone scams, IRS scams, and the ubiquitous grandparent scam, where fraudsters pretend to be grandchildren calling for financial help.

Having a Life Care Plan in place for an elderly loved one adds an extra layer of protection against financial fraud, according to Dawn Weekly, an Elder Law Attorney at Legacy Law Firm, LLC, a Life Care Planning Law Firm based in Sandwich, Illinois. “An older adult with a Life Care Plan is less likely to fall victim to financial abuse from a stranger or a relative because we have Powers of Attorney in place and there are more people monitoring the elder’s financial situation,” said Dawn. “If the elderly client gets a suspicious phone call, they know they can call us and ask about it.”

Gena Cimaroli, an Elder Care Coordinator with Legacy Law Firm, LLC, agrees. “I meet regularly with clients in their home,” said Gena. “They know I’ll be back soon, so they get into the habit of putting questionable mail to the side and holding it for me. It makes everyone feel more secure.”

Criminals are aware that many seniors live alone, which makes them the perfect target for scams. Studies show that the elderly tend to be more receptive to telemarketers because they are in greater need of social interactions. Lonely seniors who lack the support of friends and family also tend to rely on retailers and service providers as a source of social support, and this practice increases the risk of being scammed. “We work with our Life Care Planning clients to make sure that they get as much social interaction as possible, whether it’s at a senior center, in an adult day care center, or in some other setting,” said Dawn. “That decreases the likelihood that an older adult will look to a telemarketer or a door-to-door salesman for social support.”

A Life Care Plan can be a formidable defense against fraudsters’ assumptions that older adults are easily tricked or confused due to cognitive impairment. “After a Life Care Plan is created for an older client, we have a clear plan for his or her finances and action plans are in place,” added Dawn. “If something happens and our clients feel confused and vulnerable, they know they can call us to confirm whether a purchase is okay. Just knowing we’re there to help makes everyone breathe easier.”

Staying on top of the latest scams is something older adults and their caregivers can do together. Sites like StopFraud.gov, AARP’s Fraud Watch Network, and the IRS Dirty Dozen are good places to start.