Just this month, a grand jury in Santa Barbara, California indicted a man accused of running a Ponzi scheme and scamming dozens of retirees out of over $12 Million dollars. The scam itself was based on a false presentation that retirees' savings and money would be used for “legitimate investments” in a foreign market, but in reality nothing was ever invested. Instead, the scammer used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle and wasteful personal purchases.
Although this is just one specific instance, scams that target elders are extremely common. Elder persons may not be as familiar with the complicated workings of online commerce and transactions, and can be vulnerable to people taking advantage of their generosity and their hard-earned savings. Indeed, elder scams are one of the most common financial issues that can arise for older persons and retirees, even if the rest of their finances are in good order.
Another common method for stealing money from elder persons is by pretending to be a younger relative in a dire situation. One of the most common is the “grandson in jail” scam, where a younger person, pretending to be a victim's grandchild, asks for money in order to get out of serious trouble. Sympathizing with what they think is their young grandchild, elder people are particularly vulnerable to this type of scam which preys on our concern and our generosity. Also, there is one that demands immediate disclosure of their social security number and credit card information for the IRS or the police will come immediately to arrest them.
Not only are these scams financial exploitation and abuse, but also emotional as well. Both of these kinds of abuse can leave a deep wound on anyone. For many elders, living alone, hopeful to maintain as much independence as possible, this type of thing can have devastating consequences.
Although not all elders are victims of predatory scams or people who may take advantage of them, many are. At Senior Steps, we represent all of our clients as fully as we can, even beyond health care itself. This includes ensuring that each and every one of our clients is protected from predatory scammers. Being the victim of a confidence scam can have a massive negative impact on a person's well-being. Feeling of embarrassment, shame, and insecurity are very common among victims (“how could I have been so stupid!?”). These feelings are normal, but they can be debilitating, especially for elders.
So look out for your older relatives and friends. And if they come to you telling you about an investment opportunity that seems too good to be true, or a tricky situation their relative is in that seems a little too far-fetched to be true, help them out. We certainly do for our clients.