Con-artists abound in the elderly community. They know certain things about the elderly and their attitudes which makes them easy prey.
Common acts of fraud involve larceny, embezzlement, forgery, issuing false documents or checks, destruction
of wills, breach of fiduciary duty, and the violation of applicable consumer protection statutes.
Elderly people are typically financially stable. They tend to own
their homes, receive pensions, and may have excellent credit and savings in the bank.
They are also quite trusting, a trait that can be attributed to their generation
and how they were raised. Con artists know this and exploit it for their own
gain. All elderly are at risk, but those suffering from a debilitating
illness like Alzheimer's Disease may be especially vulnerable.
Con-artists come in all shapes, sizes, and professions. They can even be fiduciaries, such as lawyers, accountants, and financial advisors. Most are trustworthy, but there are exceptions. Con artists can be caregivers and, sadly, family members, which is quite unsettling because they often have access to important documents and financial statements.
Unfortunately, a good deal of financial (and physical) abuse is due to the deceit of a family member. The health guru with the magic "cure," the phony unlicensed and roving home repair worker, the slick and unscupulous telemarketer, an unproven "financial advisor," a shady nursing home: they all work deligently toward one goal, to remove money from the hands of the elderly.
The ravages of old age and illness are enough to make the average person seek relief in any form. They may feel that nothing has worked, so why not try something else. The time and money spent chasing the "miracle cure" could be better spent with legitimate medical professionals who truly have the wherewithal to positively affect the quality of life.
Avoid like the plague anyone promising a new cure, no matter how desperate you have become. Many a con-artist has represented himself as a medical professional, whipping up useless concoctions in their "lab" and offering these for sale at very high prices. Or someone may claim that the herbs and vitamins they sell are all you'll ever need. And of course, when the products don't work, or when they harm you, the seller may suggest you "give it some more time" or "buy some more" before they disappear altogether. In the end, all you have are cancelled checks and lost opportunities for proper medical care.
Be leery of anyone insisting that you must pay up front and often.
Recoil at the invitation of strangers to pay out large sums of money for
something they may have to sell. Check with the Better Business Bureau, your state's
Attorney General, and even police before embarking on what may be a scam to drain you or
your loved one of hard-earned resources. And forget get-rich-quick
schemes. You can't be cheated if you know and remember that huge profits
don't come easily or that the chances of your being chosen a "winner" in
some questionable contest you never even entered are slim to none.
Though not every company engaging in telemarketing is fraudulent, there are some that count on keeping
you on the phone until they can talk you into giving out personal information (i.e. social security number,
bank account numbers etc.). Hang up!
It is not rude or impolite to hang up on someone who intends to do you harm. How will you know who's who? Ask them for the business name, a phone number, an address, and their name. Then tell them you'll call
them back after checking with the Better Business Bureau. At this point, they may try to bully you, or they
may be very cooperative and polite, which can be disarming. Follow through. Do not let them intimidate you
or rush you. Contact somebody in authority as soon as possible, and DO NOT enter into any financial agreements before you have done the homework. Better yet, unless you are absolutely certain, do not do
any business over the telephone
with strangers period. And beware of the stranger who, after repeated phone
calls, refers to himself or herself as your "friend."
If you or a loved one are scammed, don't let shame keep you from reporting it to police or other legal authorities. Do your best to keep track of dates, times, names, and the promises made to you by a con artist. Try to document everything that occurred by writing it all down. Quickly get to a person in a position of authority. Your loss may or may not be recovered, but your swift action may stop the con-artist from finding more victims.
For the Alzheimer's sufferer, remembering dates, times, and names might be an impossibility, all the more reason for responsible, trustworthy caregivers to be watchful and careful. Consult a trusted attorney to see
if there are ways
to prevent you or your loved one from becoming embroiled in some dubious financial
scheme. Caring family members have to be certain that the person or people
entrusted with the care of their loved one are trustworthy, but even under
the best of circumstances it does not hurt to be forever watchful.
Misappropriation of funds can also result from dealing with shady nursing homes. Some may be involved in Medicare fraud, charging for services that were never performed or medicines that were never dispensed. Some may even attach liens to property like vehicles or real estate when there was no agreement or reason for such. Most states have some sort of regulatory agency that oversees the operations of nursing homes. It
is wise to check for appropriate licenses,
references, and state agency ratings before placing your loved one in the
hands of unregulated facilities.
The following are some of the indicators that financial exploitation may be taking place:
Click here to see a
list of sites that you can visit to learn more about, or to report, fraud.