Home for the Holidays? Six Signs Your Elderly Relative is Being Bilked out of Their Nest Egg

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In time for National Caregivers Month, True Link issues checklist of senior financial fraud and exploitation “red flags” to watch for.

True Link Financial

True Link Financial

When millions of Americans go over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house this holiday season, there could be signs of serious financial troubles waiting for them when they get there. Ten percent of people over the age of 60 suffer from some form of financial exploitation every year – including not just con artists, but also predatory marketing practices from retailers and even shady “charities” looking to cash in on the generous holiday spirit. Those money problems often go unreported because the seniors are too embarrassed to share what happened. But it almost never happens just once – a single incident might be a sign of increased vulnerability, but it has also put mom or dad on someone’s target list, and they’re going to come back for more. That’s why it’s important for adult children to keep an eye out for money problems in their elderly parents when you’re home for the holidays this year.

In time for the annual holiday family gatherings and as part of November’s National Family Caregiver Month, which recognizes the efforts and sacrifice of more than 60 million Americans who provide some kind of care for their elderly parents, True Link Financial has put together a checklist of signs of potential money problems that adult children can look for when they visit elderly parents over the holiday.

Red Flags Your Aging Relative is Suffering from Financial Exploitation

1.    Missing funds – This is the obvious one. If mom is a victim of elder financial exploitation – whether it's by a family member, a fraud ring, or a predatory marketing scheme – she's going to have less money as a result. Watch for unpaid bills or extra credit cards lying around, and keep an eye on the gifts being given during the holidays. If she’s giving dramatically less or dramatically more this year compared to last year, it could be time to have a conversation and check out her finances.

2.    Lots of phone calls from telemarketers – Telemarketers know that older adults are particularly vulnerable to their tactics. And once they discover a viable target the calls can come nonstop, even if your parent is on a Do Not Call list. Take note of how many calls come during your visit. You may be surprised to find out that telemarketers call your parent more often than you or the grandkids do. Every one of those calls is a financial mishap waiting to happen.

3.    New friends – All too often these senior entrapment schemes rely on the perception that the senior is susceptible, isolated, or even lonely. This is a tactic used by con artists, malicious caregivers, predatory telemarketers, and deceptive infomercial offers alike – "Just get the senior talking!" The more they build a trusting relationship, the more likely they are to get their money. If someone is suddenly spending a lot of time with mom or dad, get to know who the person is and what the nature of the relationship is, and it might be a good time to do a quick review of their bank accounts and credit cards.

4.    Small clues in conversations – Sometimes if mom says something that doesn't quite make sense, you just brush over it. She mentions her grandson's trip to Mexico and you think to yourself "oh, she must mean Florida and got confused." However, she could be talking about falling victim to the grandparent scam, in which someone posing as a relative in a tough situation cons the elderly person into wiring money abroad.

5.    Unusual gifts - Family is often the most important thing to a senior, and so “gifts for family members” are often used as bait for financial entrapment by deceptive merchants. They might offer four for the price of one as part of a misleading sales pitch, and then the other three become gifts for family members. Or a sweepstakes or lottery winnings fraud will claim that a senior is going to get to take their family on an exciting trip abroad.

6.    Secrecy – Seniors suffering from financial entrapment often feel fear or shame about the situation they are in. If mom suddenly doesn't want to talk about money anymore, that's exactly the time when maybe you should be having a conversation about money.

“Family caregivers know best when something just doesn’t seem right,” says Stinchcombe, whose company, True Link, offers a service that prevents such financial exploitation. True Link offers a Visa debit card that allows caregivers to set spending limits for specific vendors, receive alerts about unusual purchases, or block suspicious purchases all together. “Talking about the aging process can always be uncomfortable. But spotting these problems early and taking meaningful steps to address them will be better for both you and your parents in the long run.”

True Link has actually provided some tips for folks who need to broach the tricky topic of finances with their aging, which you can find here.

About True Link
True Link protects elderly and cognitively impaired people from scams, fraud, and financial exploitation by providing them with a safe form of payment to make daily purchases. Family caregivers set up and use True Link's service to monitor their loved ones' spending and prevent unwanted purchases from pushy telemarketers, predatory mail solicitations, or sweepstakes scams. The company is based in San Francisco. Learn more at http://www.TrueLinkFinancial.com.

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Leslie Alford
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