NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Protecing the Elderly

Protecting the Elderly


            In Glynis Walker-Anderson’s book, “Stealing Joy: A True Story of Alzheimer's, Elder Abuse, and Fraud” she details how a “helpful” friend convinced Anderson’s mother to rewrite her will, end communication with Anderson and eventually stole over $20,000. Elder abuse is a major problem in this country with the potential for more unfortunate incidences as baby boomers age.

            According to the recent survey of over 2,000 Americans by Allianz Life Insurance Company, about 1 in 5 family or friends of elderly people are worried about them falling victim to financial abuse. Among those over the age of 65, 11 percent were concerned about their risk. "The majority of financial abuse is carried on by family members or friends, and the average consumer loses $30, 000,” says Brenda Hart, director of consumer insights at Allianz. About 1 in every 10 victims loses over $100,000, she adds.

            While it seems unconscionable to most, unscrupulous men and women often target senior citizens for devious scams to rob them of their money or identities. When scammers know how to confuse and gain the trust of the elderly, they have virtual free reign of bank accounts, personal information, and even assets.

One of the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from this type of fraud is to prepare for it. Here are tips from the experts on how to do that:

            1. Get your paperwork in order early. Give yourself a deadline – when you retire, when you begin to collect Social Security, when you move to a smaller resident -to make sure you have your paperwork, including an estate plan, will and health directives, in order so that if dementia sets in, you and your loved ones are prepared.

            2.  Involve More than One Family Member   When family members assist older parents with their money, it is helpful if more than one person oversees the accounts.  Having an extra set of eyes look over the accounts can prevent misuse of funds. . Involving a financial advisor or lawyer can also help.

            3. Have the Money Talk, Often - People are often uncomfortable talking about money with family members, but it's an important step for fraud prevention.  On a regular basis ask your elderly family members, “Are there any phone calls that are making you uncomfortable? Can I review your mail?'  Talk about what charities you have donated to and ask what donations they have made.  Those types of conversations help boost awareness and can prevent financial crimes.

            4. Be Alert to Current Scams.   What scams have made the news in your area?  Have there been reports by local Police Departments of scams involving seniors? Attend workshops on avoiding scams offered by your financial institution, at your Senior Center or by an educational organization such as the NDSU Extension Service.  Keep update on what is happening to others. Then, if someone approaches you or your loved one with a potential investment or opportunity, it will be easier to determine the legitimacy of the offer.

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