Charity/Religion Scam. In this scenario, the scammer calls the senior and pretends to be a charity or religious organization. The scammer may pray with the senior over the phone and spend a lot of time talking to the senior about the senior’s life in order to convince them that they are friends. Of course, the scammer will also talk about the need for money for some project. The scammer may call several times a week to check on the senior “friend.” The senior begins to send money to the scammer. Often, after several months, the family may notice something is wrong. At this point the senior will often become defensive of the friend and angry toward family. This may continue until hundreds of thousands of dollars have been sent to the scammer.
Sweepstakes Scam. A family member of mine almost experienced this scam. The family member received a call that she had won Publisher’s Clearing House; but, needed to give access to her bank account so the money could be transferred. Fortunately, she did not disclose any information and had me check into it. I discovered the number led to a location in Jamaica – clearly not the real Publisher’s Clearing House.
Matchmaking. Believe it or not, seniors use online dating services because they are lonely. The senior may “meet” someone and have a virtual relationship. This relationship usually consists only of emailing or chat. In other words, the senior never sees the person; but, grows to think they love each other. At that point, the new “love” starts talking about money problems. The senior begins wiring money. This begins a cycle as the new “love” always has money problems.
How can the family help or intervene? The family may be able to monitor bank accounts, change phone numbers, monitor the senior’s mail and activities and stop this activity. Seniors can also be desperate enough to send money to the “friend” that they sell or pawn property to get money. At this point, if the senior has a medical issue such as dementia, the family will likely need to look at court action such as guardianship and conservatorship. This action is extreme but it can work to prevent a senior from obtaining loans, signing contracts, or cashing out assets to send to the scammer. These cases can be very difficult and it is important for the family to seek legal advice as soon as it is suspected that the senior is the victim of a scam.
-Melanie B. Bradford