March 21, 2022
Elderly Fraud and Senior Scams
What Every Family Should Know to
Protect Your Loved Ones
Every year some elderly Americans fall victim to financial fraud. Some examples of this include IRS calls, contractor scams, lottery, and sweepstakes scams, to name a few. Communication from those seeking to deceive elderly people may happen by phone, email, mail, or in person and sometimes can originate from contractors or service providers.
Why is our elderly population especially vulnerable? In general, seniors are a polite and trusting group of individuals. They also may be lonely or have an abundance of time, so certain kinds of solicitation attract their attention. Many of the perpetrators infiltrate over a period of time, as they “groom” the elderly and find ways to earn their trust. Frankly, these fraudsters or scammers are very skilled at their craft and can often sound extremely believable to seniors with either full or partial cognitive abilities.
Below is a list of common scams to be aware of on behalf of your loved ones:
- IRS – Typically, seniors are very dedicated to paying all their taxes so when the IRS “comes a calling” an elderly person will be scared and responsive. Make certain the seniors in your life know that the IRS never places direct telephone calls. If there is an issue with unpaid taxes, from either the state or federal government, the taxing authority will issue formal written documentation sent through the US Postal Service. These types of conversations and letters should always be reviewed by a professional such as a CPA, attorney, or knowledgeable family member.
- Contractor Scams – Seniors who still reside in their own homes can be prime targets for contractors who seek to charge excessive fees for all types of home improvement and related services. These services could include real estate transaction fees, heating/air conditioning, landscape upgrades, remodeling projects, and many others. These types of solicitors seek to find ways to gain access to an elderly person’s home and “discover” many items in the home, “that could become a catastrophe,” if left unattended. This fear of the unknown, and a desire to protect assets the elderly person has worked all their life to secure, can be a powerful reason to engage and contract unnecessary and high-priced services.
- Charitable Giving – Having lived longer and fuller lives, many elderly people desire to give back to certain charities who have helped them or their loved ones in times of need throughout their lives. If the nonprofit organization is not completely ethical, elderly people can be “guilted” or “manipulated” into including certain nonprofit organizations in their wills/trusts/endowments, although this was never the senior person’s true intention. Upon the elderly person’s passing, a massive surprise may be in store for their loved ones—who had no idea their elderly family member may have changed their estate plan or legacy-giving intentions. They may also find a sizable number of regular gifts that were made to questionable charities while their loved one was alive.
- Flattery/Thoughtful Gifts – Elderly people in general, but particularly widows who have lost their husbands, are yet another ideal target for certain perpetrators to gain access to their financial situations. Both for profit and nonprofit organizations may use certain forms of flattery and thoughtful gifts to gain the trust and attention of elderly people. Sending flowers, sentimental greeting cards, candy boxes, lunches/dinners, etc. are tactics that have been successfully used for years. The elderly person may view these new relationships as very real and genuine, but their purpose is to gain trust and coax the elderly person into giving financially or to purchase substantial amounts of certain products and/or services, etc.
- Loneliness/Isolation — These key emotions can be a major motivator for elderly women and men to engage in long conversations with outsiders and strangers, both on the phone and in person. There are sinister people who are all too willing to listen endlessly senior persons’ life stories, with the purpose of uncovering their true financial situation, and only to use this knowledge to take advantage of their income and assets.
At Hitchman Fiduciaries, we view it as a true privilege to help families navigate the ever-changing seasons of life. Everyone who comes through our doors is treated like family. This is more than a philosophy, it is the way we have been doing business for almost two decades.
About the Author
Lee Ann Hitchman is the Founder and Senior Partner of Hitchman Fiduciaries. She began the fiduciary practice in 2005, by performing pro bono work through the Unbefriend Elderly Program in Orange County. From these humble beginnings, the firm has grown substantially and now consists of a staff of 9, 6 who are licensed fiduciaries, who are recognized for their experience and knowledge, their compassionate approach, and their ability to generate results for their clients.
To learn more about how Hitchman Fiduciaries can support you and your family, reach out to us at 949-200-9712 or contact us through our website at www.hitchmanfiduciaries.com.