Elder financial exploitation is often one of those problems that community members believe only happens to “other people.” When reading stories about seniors falling for scams or being exploited by caregivers it is easy to view them as one-of-a-kind examples. But the truth is the exact opposite: elder financial exploitation is referred to by observers as an epidemic. It is prudent for all New York families to take preventative steps to minimize the chance of a loved one falling victim.
One story that made headlines last week is a reminder of how scammers eager to take advantage of seniors can cause harm from anywhere. According to a report from NBC, the scam artist began by knocking on the senior’s door in a panic. The man pretended to be distraught, and was in tears while falsely claiming that his own parents were just killed in an automobile accident.
In the midst of telling his sob story, the scammer claimed that he had no money or family to turn to to pay for the finances of dealing with the loss. Yet, he claimed that he would eventually receive a large inheritance as a result of his parent’s death. He asked the senior to borrow money with the promise of paying him back with the inheritance.
The senior, wanting to help a person he thought was in dire straits, complied. He gave the scam artist money. For the next five years, the sam artists apparently stayed in contact with the senior. In fact, the criminal even spent a multi-year stretch in a state prison. During that time he continued to ask the senior for money, to pay for probate costs as well as diabetes medicine–the money was wired to his inmate account. All told, the senior lost at least $10,000 to the scam.
Recently, the younger man was arrested for fraud when his actions were finally uncovered. He faces substantially criminal penalties if convicted of the seventeen individual counts, though it is unclear if the senior will be able to recover any of his lost funds.
This case is an example of a common theme in these matters: gaining the senior’s trust and then milking the goodwill for all it is worth. While it is easy to read these and similar stories as bizarre occurrences, it is prudent to use them as a warning sign. Exploitation can happen in so many different ways, and no one is completely immune from being taken advantage of.