FROM INHERITANCE TO SCAM
I’ll never forget the phone call and story that happened late last year. A dear client of mine had recently received an inheritance that provided them with complete financial security.They were in their 70’s and using the money for necessities such as dental work and home renovations they had been putting off for years. It may have been a coincidence, but several months later they received a phone call that would cost them $16,000.
THE $16,000 SCAM THAT COULD’VE BEEN MUCH WORSE
The phone call came from an individual who claimed to be the attorney for my client’s grandson who had been in a car accident. The client’s grandson in real life was driving to New York for a wedding and the attorney on this call new those details. He claimed that the grandson needed $5,000 for a retainer immediately and that the grandson was in the hospital so he could not speak.
With time of the essence, my clients paid the $5,000. Now that the bait was taken, the scammer called back over the next two days asking for more money for hospital bills, legal bills, court costs, etc until the client finally became suspicious. In his panic he realized he never spoke to his grandson or his parents. With the fear that he had just been scammed, he called me asking what he should do. Unfortunately, the scam worked, and he would never see his money again. Fortunately, he could withstand the loss and we could ensure no more money was lost and a police report was filed.
You may be thinking that he should’ve known this was a scam and “I would never give someone my credit card over the phone.” This client was very intelligent and had no signs of cognitive decline. The truth is that these scammers are professionals. They had a story that made sense, details that were verifiable and a script on how to create urgency. My clients were embarrassed, but they were fortunate. They could’ve lost much more. Many people lose their life savings to scams such as these.
HOW TO AVOID BEING SCAMMED
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), millions of older adults fall prey to financial scams every year. It is imperative for not only seniors, but their children and their advisors to be aware of the potential for these scams and to be diligent.
The following is a list of 4 tips from the NCOA to protect yourself:
- Be skeptical of all unsolicited offers and thoroughly do your research:
Be an informed consumer. Take the time to call and shop around before making a purchase. Take a friend with you who may offer some perspective to help you make difficult decisions. If you are suspicious, do your due diligence and ask around.
- Be aware that you are at risk from strangers—and from those closest to you
Over 90% of all reported elder abuse is committed by the older person’s own family members, most often their adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and others. Common tactics include depleting a joint checking account, promising but not delivering care in exchange for money or property, outright theft, and other forms of abuse, including physical abuse, threats, intimidation, and neglect of basic care needs.
- Don’t isolate yourself—stay involved!
Isolation is a huge risk factor for elder abuse. Most family violence only occurs behind closed doors, and elder abuse is no exception. Some older people self-isolate by withdrawing from the larger community. Others are isolated because they lose the ability to drive, see, or walk about on their own. It is important to keep close relations with family, friends and trusted advisors.
- Never give your credit card, banking, Social Security, Medicare, or other personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call
Misuse of Medicare dollars is one of the largest scams involving seniors. Common schemes include billing for services never delivered and selling unneeded devices or services to beneficiaries. Protect your Medicare number as you do your credit card, banking, and Social Security numbers and do not allow anyone else to use it. Be wary of salespeople trying to sell you something they claim will be paid for by Medicare.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD FINANCIAL ADVICE
Financial Planning is not just about managing investment portfolios. More importantly it is about having someone you trust to guide you when the unexpected occurs and to make sure your family has a trusted resource to rely on. We aren’t just advisors, we are financial coaches, trainers and accountability partners.
At Abel Financial Management, we are an independent, fiduciary, financial planning firm with a mission to help you make smart decisions with your money. Steve is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM and Partner at Abel-Financial Management. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 410-307-1202.