Category Archives: Caring for Aging Parents

Financial Elder Abuse Nightmare Worthy of Stephen King

Here’s a story of financial elder abuse that reads like it’s straight out of a Stephen King novel. Like many of King’s stories, this real-life horror story also involves a small cabin in Maine where an 85-year old woman from California was finally liberated from “friends” who dragged her cross-country while draining her life savings like vampires.

After the victim’s funds were exhausted, she was left alone to fend for herself in 93-degree heat with no phone and very little food. Her “friends” — 41-year old twins Barbara and Nicholas Davis and 20-year-old Jonathan Stevans — have been charged with felony endangerment of a dependent…for starters.

The investigating detective has told ABC News that the case as “a textbook example” of financial elder abuse

The woman told authorities that she had sold her Los Angeles home in 2008 for $600,000, moving into an apartment complex where she met the suspects, who gradually won her confidence and gained access to her bank accounts and investments. No befuddlement or impairment on the woman’s part was to blame — she was in good health physically and mentally. Rather, she was lonely.

Read the full story.

The manager of the Pine Crest Motor Court in Edgecomb, Maine, called authorities when he became suspicious not long after the three perpetrators moved their elderly victim into the tiny cabin. As reported in The Lincoln County News, manager Jerry Pike said the Davis twins and Stevans originally inquired about rates for an extended stay…

“They wanted a deal for the season and told me their middle-aged mother was an artist who needed peace and quiet away from her children,” Pike said. “I was given a deposit, and I told them specifically that they couldn’t move in until I had all the money.”

Pike said the trio contacted him a few days later stating they were having trouble “coming up with the money” because of problems cashing a social security check.

“I became suspicious because they seemed like they had money. They drove what looked like a $50,000 truck and wore expensive clothes,” Pike said. “They talked like educated people.”

Pike said his suspicion peaked when the suspects said they were only able to access $100 a day despite traveling in what he described as lavish style.

Despite the suspects’ specific instructions not to bother the elderly woman, Pike checked on the cabin periodically by knocking gently to see if anyone was inside. Eventually the lack of a response became impossible to ignore, and he called a neighbor to check on the welfare of the woman. The pair called the sheriff’s office and requested the welfare check that led to the woman’s rescue.

Read the full story.

The sad truth about this sensational story is that most cases of financial elder abuse go unreported and undetected. Yes, it’s true that victims of financial elder abuse are often exploited by misplaced trust in helpful friends. But even more often the abusers are predatory caregivers or family members.

Financial elderly abuse is a growing crime that some experts estimate has affected as many as 3.5 million elderly. A recent study estimated total losses at $2.9 billion.

Don’t let your aging parents or loved ones become the victim of financial elder abuse. Check out these two outstanding (and free!) resources from the MetLife Mature Market Institute: Preventing Elder Financial Abuse for Older Adults and Preventing Elder Financial Abuse for Family Caregivers.

Share

Online Safety Tips for Seniors

Are your aging parents safe online? Or are they setting themselves up as fresh bait for online scammers looking to steal their identity, destroy their credit, and drain their bank accounts?

Older adults have been a target for con artists and scammers as long as their have been older people and thieves. In fact, most scams that target the elderly are just new versions of time-proven scams that have been updated with a new twist — or new technology. And as more seniors go online, they are finding that it’s far too easy to skip or trip into an online minefield of trouble.

In a recent Huffington Post entry, Jason Alderman, Visa’s Senior Director of Financial Education, lists several key online safety tips for seniors worth sharing with the aging loved one in your life…

Update security software. Make sure their computers have anti-virus and anti-spyware software and show them how to update it regularly.

Think like the bad guys. Even the best software isn’t 100 percent foolproof, so teach them how to anticipate and ward off annoying — or criminal — behavior. For example:

  • Only open or download information from trusted sites to which you navigated yourself. Don’t assume a link contained in an email, even from a friend, will necessarily take you to a company’s legitimate website.
  • Don’t click on popup windows or banners that appear when you’re browsing a site.
  • Some common email scams that target seniors include offers for discounted drugs and low-cost insurance, and supposed warnings from the IRS — which, incidentally, never contacts taxpayers by email.
  • Financial institutions never email customers asking for verification of account or password information.
  • When shopping online, look for safety symbols, such as a padlock icon in the browser’s status bar, an “s” after “http” in the URL address, or the words “Secure Sockets Layer” (SSL) or “Transport Layer Security” (TLS). These are signs that the merchant is using a secure page for transmitting personal information.

These are all common tricks used to infect your computer with viruses or to install spyware that records your keystrokes to obtain account or other confidential information.

Read the full article

Alderman also points out that poor passwords continue to be a real threat to personal online security — especially if your aging parent or loved one uses passwords that a determined scammer can find on an “open to everyone” facebook profile.

Use strong passwords. Believe it or not, the most frequently used password is “password.” Other common, easy-to-crack passwords include simple numeric sequences and names of pets, spouses and children. For more secure passwords:

  • Use at least seven characters with a mixture of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Use unique passwords for each account in case one gets compromised.
  • Change passwords frequently.
  • If you’re prone to forgetting, safely store a master list of passwords.

Protect personal information. Never post sensitive information on any website (or share via email, mail or phone) unless you initiated the contact. This might include numbers for credit cards, bank accounts, Social Security, Medicare and driver’s license, address/phone and full birthdate.

Criminals can easily piece together such information to steal your identity and open accounts in your name. Example: Your Facebook profile shows pictures of your dog, Rex. One of your bank’s security questions is, “What is your pet’s name?” Need I say more?

Set privacy controls. On social networking sites, carefully review privacy settings that let you limit who has access to your personal information.

Read the full article

If your aging parents or grandparents have recently joined the ranks of seniors online, they aren’t alone. More and more older adults are going online everyday. Many are initially motivated by a desire to keep up with their Facebook-savvy grandchildren. Some find their way online for the first time through Apple’s iPad, a touch-screen tablet computer that’s incredibly easy to use for newbies of all ages. And others just got fed up with feeling left out of the digital world.

The opportunity that the internet offers seniors is unlimited. But so are the risks. And in the hands of an inexperienced or unsuspecting senior, a computer keyboard or touchscreen can be as dangerous as letting a child chase a ball into the street.

Want to keep your aging parents or loved ones safe online? For more online safety tips for seniors, check out “Cyber Safe Seniors,” a free 60-page PDF download from Norton.

Share

Safe Aging at Home Tip: Elderly Should Beware Strangers in Uniform

Are you or your aging parents letting thieves who scam seniors in through the front door?

The elderly are ideal targets for scammers because they tend to be more trusting — especially if someone shows up at their front door wearing a uniform. Older adults who live alone, or who have begun to show signs of impaired judgement or memory are even more likely to be manipulated or intimidated.

Three recent news stories illustrate just how often seniors are opening their front doors to thieves posing as construction and utility workers, police officers, and even home health aids.

In Spartanberg County, SC, the sheriff is looking for a group of thieves who have been posing as construction workers to distract and burglarize unsuspecting seniors….

In the most recent incident… the men asked an 87-year-old Inman woman about construction “stobs,” or stakes in the ground. The woman went outside and spoke to several men, who said there was a new phone line going in around the area, an incident report said.

The woman told the men she would have to talk to her daughter and when she returned to her house, she found that the door had damaged around the knob. She asked the men to stay outside but the men pushed by her and went inside, the report said.

The men asked her where her money and prescription medication were, and they roamed her home for about 10 minutes, the report said. They later took her cell phone and ripped her phone line out of the wall before leaving. After the men left, the woman went to a neighbor’s home to call police.

Read the full story here

In Michigan, Grand Rapids police reported that a woman has been approaching seniors claiming to be a police officer to gain access to their homes…

…a 72-year-old resident walking in his neighborhood near Lake Michigan Drive NW and Collingdale avenue was approached by a woman identifying herself as a police officer and then talked her way into his house after showing a badge.

While in the house, the woman asked the intended victim about his finances and whether there was money in the home. The woman claimed she was investigating a “counterfeit ring” and said the resident matched the description. The woman got into an old white station wagon driven by someone else and took off, according to police.

Read the full story here

And in Delaware County, Penn., an elderly couple was victimized by a young woman wearing hospital scrubs who claimed she worked for the Delaware County Office of Services for the Aging…

The woman told the elderly man that she was there to check on his wife, who is confined to a bed because of medical issues, police said. The man let the woman inside and she spoke to his wife about her medical issues. After a few minutes, she left the home.

A short time later, the woman returned telling the man that her car had broken down and asked to use the phone. The man allowed her inside again, but this time the woman ran into the wife’s bedroom, went immediately to a bedside table and took a number of items, including cash and a check book. She ran back out the front door before the man could stop her. The suspect’s car was heard driving away toward Washington Street, police said.

Read the full story here

How can you tell if the person ringing your bell really works for the utility company or the police? The following safe aging at home tips can help protect yourself or your aging parents the next time a wolf in sheep’s clothing comes a knockin’ at the front door:

• Don’t open the door! You are not being rude. This is a matter of security, not manners. Whatever needs to be said can be said with you safely inside. Never allow someone you don’t know or trust to literally “get a foot” in your door.

• Beware bogus utility worker scam teams working in pairs. One thief distracts their elderly victim by convincing them to go outside to the backyard or into the basement. Meanwhile, the other thief sneaks in the front door, or pretends to go the bathroom, or to check the gas appliances for leaks. While you are busy outside, the second scammer is stealing any valuables he or she can find.

• Look for a marked utility vehicle with your local utility company’s logo in front of your house or in your driveway.  No sign of a properly marked utility vehicle is a red flag. So are unmarked utility trucks or personal vehicles with “peel off” magnetic signs.

• Don’t be fooled by what appears to be a uniform or an identification badge. Generic uniforms can be made to look official with the right patches. Besides, would you know how to tell a genuine utility worker ID or a police badge from a fake?

• Confirm any letters, door hangers, or phone calls from a utility company that say workers will be in your neighborhood or will need access to your home. Important: Look up the number in a phone book or online AND CALL THE UTILITY COMPANY YOURSELF.

Increasingly, sophisticated scammers who want to put skeptical victims at ease are giving advanced notice that someone will knock at your door — just like real utility companies. The notice may be on utility company letterhead, but the “confirmation number” may be answered by one of the scammers or a bogus recorded message. For the same reason…

• Verify any unexpected visits from utility workers or the police by calling the utility company or the police station yourself. Do not let the person on the other side of your front door give you a number to speak with their “supervisor.” Do not let them have someone call you from the utility company or the station, or dial a number for you on their cell phone. And never, ever let anyone in your home to use your phone.

• If the stranger in uniform at your door says it’s an emergency or you have even the slightest doubt that something isn’t right, call 911. The police take calls about people impersonating cops very seriously. If the gas or electric utility workers are for real, they will have no problems waiting for the police to verify their identity. And the police take calls about people impersonating cops very seriously.

Share

Elderly Fall Prevention Tips to Keep Aging Parents Safe

Elderly fall prevention is a top safety concern for aging parents for a good reason. According to The Centers for Disease Control, one out of three adults age 65 years and older falls each year. Even more frightening: Falls are the leading cause of injury death for older adults and the death rates have been rising.

Unfortunately, when it comes to falls and the elderly, the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” doesn’t apply. Even non-fatal falls can have devastating life-changing consequences. Broken arms, legs, and backs are common, as are hip fractures and head injuries.

And the older you are, the more severe those consequences become. According to the CDC, “Adults age 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely than those age 65 to 74 to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer.”

With those kind of cheerful statistics, it’s not surprising that elderly fall victims are often terrified of falling again. That’s understandable. But for many older adults, the fear of falling becomes a phobia that actually INCREASES their risk of falling.

Part of the reason may be psychological. Recent studies indicate that anticipating a fall may help precipitate a fall. But the main reason is that fear of falling can lead to reduced physical activity and fitness…which leads to weaker muscles and impaired balance…which is a recipe for more falls.

IMPORTANT: If you’re concerned that your aging parent or loved one may be risking serious injury due to a fall, you’re not alone. But don’t expect them to let you know they’re having trouble staying on their feet. Many older adults don’t tell their family or their doctors about balance problems because they are embarrassed or fear losing their independence as much as they fear falling.

But suffering falls in silence is dangerous — a point that senior health and home care columnist Sara-Lynn Reynolds recently made in an excellent opinion piece for the Foxborough Patch:

If you you begin to recognize that you are at risk of falling, it is time to be pro-active – denial is not helpful.  Do not let someone insist you are ‘just getting old’. Go for a ‘fall risk assessment’ at your local Physical Therapist office. Learn what they have to offer. They will help correct your posture and strengthen (with proper therapy) your muscles in no time. Frailty is not your friend.  If you are living alone, (or know of someone who is) and find yourself or them being inactive, know that inactivity DOES accelerate the loss of muscle, strength and balance and you will be at a higher risk for a fracture if you do fall…which equals possible nursing home care.

I understand that the body does not do what it used to (mine doesn’t either). I understand being on a fixed budget. I understand not wanting to exercise. However, we have to keep moving. And although canes are good to pirouette around and a walker is a good assistive device, it is important to realize that physical activity is the “key” to maintaining or restoring our bodies to an improved physical state which in turn will stimulate our brains and restore our confidence and desire to get out and live a more active and productive life for the time available to us.

Read the full article here.

For more information about how to keep your aging parent or loved one safe from serious falls, check out these elderly fall prevention tips from the Mayo Clinic.

Share

How to Protect Aging Parents from Investment Fraud

If your aging parents haven’t been victims of investment fraud or financial elder abuse, the odds are good that it may just be a matter of time.

According to a 2010 Elder Investor Fraud Survey conducted by The Investor Protection Trust, one out of every five adults over the age of 65 have been victimized by financial scams. And one out of every three older adults are getting calls from telemarketers asking them to send money or hawking lotteries and similar scams.

The elderly are favorite targets for financial fraudsters for a few key reasons:

• First and foremost, “that’s where the money is.” Older Americans who have spent a lifetime working, saving, and investing tend to have more financial assets compared to the general population.

• Stealing from the elderly is relatively easy compared to other types of fraud — especially for predatory caregivers or family members. Many times all it takes is an account number, a password, or a legal document that can be used to commit financial elder abuse. The fact that so many cases of financial elder abuse go undetected and unreported for years has prompted some experts to dub financial elder abuse the “Crime of the 21st Century.”

• Many victims of financial elder abuse are isolated, trusting, and vulnerable — traits that are all too easy to exploit for fraudsters looking for easy marks. Older adults who suffer from dementia or even mild cognitive impairments that affect their memory or judgement are at even greater risk for financial exploitation.

Another reason your aging parents may be at financial risk…

A recent survey of 600 Baby Boomers conducted by a national in-home care company, shows that many are alarmingly unprepared to help their aging parents with their finances — even at the most basis level: 34 percent had no idea if their parents have a safe deposit box or where the key is; and 36 percent have no idea where to find their aging parents’ financial information to begin with.

Important: The number of elderly victims of investment fraud is rising and is expected to keep rising as the Baby Boomers themselves get older. And we’re not just talking about falling for emails pitching winning Nigerian lottery tickets and free cruise vacations.

Even sophisticated investors can get taken. Just ask Bernie Madoff’s victims how safe they felt with their “no brainer” investment right up until their security blanket was pulled out from under them.

Protect your aging parents from becoming a victims of investment fraud. Check out these free online resources to help you get started…

Consumer Guide to Financial Self-Defense from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. Red flags that your financial advisor may be committing fraud and what to do to protect yourself.

Fighting Fraud 101: Smart Tips for Older Investors from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Worth the quick read just for the “Psychology of a Scam” section, which identified common tactics used by fraudsters.

North American Securities Administrators Association Senior Investor Resource Center. A superb resource. Topics include: A checklist of key questions to ask before investing; Ten tips to protect your nestegg; and Top Investor Traps.

Share
« Older Entries