It is sad to think that some of our most vulnerable members of society fall prey to those hoping to exploit them financially. Unfortunately for many senior citizens in New York and elsewhere, this can easily be the case. As your parents age, they may become unwitting victims of financial predators.
Financial abuse against elders occurs more often than you might think. According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, about one out of every 20 seniors become financial targets. The fact that many older citizens suffer from cognitive impairments or need assistance with daily living can make them easier prey. Your parent might become an unwitting pawn in a financial exploitation game in the following ways:
- A scammer posing as the IRS or a utility company might call and claim your parent owes them money and threaten to turn off the power or have your parent arrested if he or she does not pay immediately.
- Your parent might receive a letter or phone call falsely claiming that he or she has won the lottery and must pay a processing fee to receive the winnings.
- Door-to-door salespeople might speak to your parent about making “discount” home repairs, only to accept a deposit and then never return.
- A scammer might contact your parent by email, posing as a stranded or arrested child or grandchild pleading for money to get out of trouble.
- Your parent might be persuaded or forced under duress to give control of his or her bank accounts to someone whose only intent is to drain his or her savings.
Elderly people do not only face exploitation by strangers with criminal intent. In fact, most of the time it is a trusted person who ends up taking advantage of vulnerable seniors. For example, a family member, hospice caregiver or neighbor who is caring for your parent might falsely gain power of attorney or obtain access to your parent’s credit cards.
It may be difficult to think about, but if your parent begins to show signs of cognitive decline, it may be time to speak with an estate planning attorney about options to protect him or her.