Guest post written by Carolyn Rosenblatt
Did you ever wonder how phone scammers manage to talk elderly clients out of huge amounts of money? Not all of the victims have dementia. Some cases involve elders who are competent and able to live alone and care for themselves.
When the elder seems to know what she’s doing, and willingly gives away savings, it is a heartbreaking puzzle for you, as well as family members seeing the scams.
A typical news report in Dallas demonstrates the problem. The elder was a mobile 90 year old, living in clutter, though managing alone. She had had a telephone relationship with a man who called himself “Michael Brown in England” for many months. During that time, she had given him an undisclosed amount of cash and had also taken out two mortgages totaling $75,000 on her house to pay him. The authorities had been notified. The bank had cut off her ability to withdraw checks for him. Social services had tried to visit; she refused and chased them away. He couldn’t get any more of her money, so he then persuaded her to get others to give money to him. The scammer seemed almost to have her hypnotized to do his bidding.
The elder had never been deemed incompetent by a court. As long as she was permitted to live on her own, she was free to live as she chose, even if that meant making clearly dangerous decisions about money. The courts in most states are quite hesitant to take away an elder’s freedom by imposing a guardianship particularly when the elder is able to show that she is capable of self-determination. “Competent” does not mean intelligent. It may simply mean that one is well aware of what one is doing.
In this matter, the elder seemed to be addicted to the telephone calls. Perhaps she was too isolated for others in the community to get through her denial and her other mental health issues. She admitted that the scammer was someone she could talk to. Her statement demonstrates her loneliness, her vulnerability, and why scammers are so successful in their long-term manipulations of people like her.
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Carolyn Rosenblatt is an R.N., B.S.N., Attorney and Mediator, with over 10 years in nursing and 27 years in legal practice. She has extensive experience working with both healthcare and legal issues of elders. She retired from litigation to become a consultant and mediator at AgingParents.com, serving as an advisor to families with aging loved ones. In the course of advising families about the problems of getting older, Carolyn and her husband, Dr. Mikol Davis, Ed.D, became aware of the information gap in the financial services field. From their observations and concerns about this information gap, Aging Investor was formed.
Together they have conducted extensive research in the financial services industry and analyzed what regulators want financial service professionals to do about aging clients. Their efforts evolved into programs for industry professionals to develop senior-specific policies. They have extensive educational materials for financial service professionals about aging, cognitive impairment, avoiding prosecution, and intergenerational wealth transfers.
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