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Holiday Scams: 14 Ways Advisors Can Help Prevent Elder Abuse

  • By Ruthann P. Lacey, P.C.
  • |
  • October 25, 2016

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are a time of celebration and cheer but the Federal Trade Commission cautions that certain groups, such as the elderly, are more vulnerable targets to scammers at this time of year. 

Seniors often live alone, are less inclined to demand evidence or hang up, or have a nest egg that scammers are seeking to exploit. Scams occur by telephone, the mail, the internet, email or text, and door to door. 

Advisors can help seniors become aware of the most common examples, including these 14 examples:

1. Discount Vacations and Timeshare Sales and Resales – You’ve been trying to get your parents to sell that timeshare for years and a call comes in offering to sell it for a lot of money due to the hot market, for just a $1,500 fee paid up front by credit card? 

2. Free Trial Offers for Products – Try it free for 30 days, just give us your credit card number?

3. Disaster Relief from Fake Charitable Organizations – These are designed to pull on the heart strings and play on feelings of guilt. Fake funds have been solicited for Hurricane Matthew recovery; veterans or military; disabled children; orphans in third world countries; feeding the hungry; police and firefighters; and others – scammers take the funds and the charities never see a penny.

4. Family Member in an Emergency – here comes the telephone call from a grandchild who is stranded away from home and needs you to send money immediately and not tell mom…

5. IRS Calling – Are they looking for payment of taxes by telephone using a credit card? Guess what, the IRS does not call…

6. Lottery Winnings – Sure, they need bank account information to deposit your “winnings”…

7. Checks Arriving in the Mail – You deposit the unexpected check in your bank account and later it gets cleaned out..

8. Extended Car Warranty – Does the company offering this car warranty even exist?

9. Magazine Subscriptions – pay a fee and receive dozens of free magazines (fee for free?)

10. Medical and Prescription Plans – Discount programs masquerading as insurance programs…

11. Collection of a Debt or Past Due Bill – Supposedly your credit or your family member’s credit will be ruined if you don’t pay; do you know if there is even a debt?  A big one is seniors paying their grandchild’s student loans – loans that don’t exist…

12. Work at Home – Stuffing envelopes or working on your computer; just send money to sign up and receive supplies to get started…

13. Companionship for Seniors – Individuals or services that take credit card numbers and get “gifts” from the senior without the senior’s family knowing about it…

14. Online Shopping – We’ll secure the gifts for your family and friends and even send them for you so you don’t have to brave the weather – just give us your credit card number…

As of February 2015, a consumer can report a telephone scam to the Federal Trade Commission by navigating to the FTC’s complaint website at Consumers can report such scams as a person pretending to be a family member or friend, or those impersonating a government official. 

Seniors may eventually realize that they have been taken advantage of, but because they don’t want to be seen as losing their ability to live independently, they may be reluctant to report it to a family member or the authorities. 

As professionals and trusted financial advisors, it’s critical to be familiar with the various types of abuse and neglect, including scamming and its impact on at-risk older adults, and to discuss these risks with seniors and their families.

Are you just getting by or are you getting better? Get started today!

Author Bio

Ruthann Lacey is an alumna of Trinity College and Emory University School of Law, is licensed to practice law in the State of Georgia and Washington, D.C., and is a Certified Elder Law Attorney. Her practice concentrates on planning for the unique and complex concerns of the elder population, and of children and adults with special needs. Ruthann is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), the Special Needs Alliance, a charter member of the Council of Advanced Practitioners, and a member of the District of Columbia Bar, the Georgia Bar Association, and the Atlanta Bar Association. Ruthann has been selected as a “Super Lawyer” every year since 2006; was named one of the Top 50 Women Attorneys in Georgia in 2007, 2009, and 2010; and was included in the “Georgia Trend” selection of Georgia’s Top Attorneys in 2012, all based on surveys of her peers. Ms. Lacey has an AV rating in Martindale-Hubbell, and was included in the 2013 Martindale-Hubbell Bar Register of Preeminent Women Lawyers. Ruthann is past chair of the Elder Law Section of the Georgia Bar, serves on the Continuity of Law Practice Committee of the Georgia Bar, belongs to the Fiduciary Law Section of the Georgia Bar Association, and is a Life Fellow with the Lawyers Foundation of Georgia. She is a member of the Elder Law and Small Firm Sections of the Atlanta Bar Association. Ruthann belongs to the DeKalb Estate Planning Council, is a member of the board of Family Initiative Residences, Inc., and is actively involved with several volunteer and charitable organizations. She is a past Director of the National Elder Law Foundation. Ruthann is an active speaker on the local, state and national levels, to both professional and public groups and organizations. Recent engagements include serving as Program Chair for the fifteenth annual Institute of Continuing Legal Education in Georgia Special Needs Trust program; presenting at the 2015 Missouri NAELA Annual Elder Law Symposium; presenting at the 2015 Georgia Trial Lawyers Association Annual Convention; presenting with the ICLE Webinar Series; presenting at the 8th Annual Utah Elder Law, Estate Planning, and Medicaid Planning 2011 program; presenting at the 9th Annual Utah Elder Law, Estate Planning, and Medicaid Planning 2012 program; presenting at the Stetson University 2011 Special Needs Trusts - The National Conference; serving as a guest Professor of Law at John Marshall Law School; serving on the faculty of Southern Trust School; presenting at the NAELA Symposium and at NAELA Fundamentals Day; facilitating at the NAELA Advanced Practitioner’s Program; presenting to the Alabama Bar Institute for Continuing Legal Education; the Tennessee Bar Association; Medicaid Irrevocable Qualified Income Trust Training; The Coca-Cola Company; the Financial Planning Association; the Cobb County Bar Association Elder Law Section; Emory University's Senior University; Delta Employees Credit Union; the People’s Law School; the Atlanta Bar Association’s Legal Eagles CLE Series; the Atlanta Special Needs Trust Discussion Group; Georgia State University; the Joint Conference on Law and Aging; the Georgia Chapter of the Huntington’s Disease Society; Church groups; Civic groups; Alzheimer’s Support Groups; and AARP Chapters. She also has been an Instructor of Estates, Trusts and Wills and Legal Research at the National Center for Paralegal Training, has drafted Elder Law legislation for submission to the Georgia General Assembly, and is an editor and published writer. Among other accomplishments, Ruthann has been published in the Georgia Bar Journal, Family Law Quarterly (a publication of the American Bar Association), Georgia Probate Notes, Exceptional Parent, Money Matters, Inside Money, Senior News, and NAELA News, edited the Medicaid chapters in A Will is Not Enough in Georgia, contributed to The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Long-Term Care Planning, and The CPA’s Guide to Long-Term Care Planning, has appeared as a guest on the Clark Howard Show, the Layman’s Lawyer, Money Matters, Inside Money, People to People, Professional Review, and Atlanta Issues, has been mentioned in Consumers Digest, has been cited in Elder Care and Nursing Home Litigation in Georgia, and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Atlanta Journal - Constitution, The Family Connection, and the American Bar Association Journal.