Articles Posted in Elder Fraud

The wide range of the internet and the increased interconnectivity of our society has led to an increase in financial frauds against the elderly. Older people lose $3 billion each year to financial scams, and more than 3.5 million individuals are impacted. People over the age of 60 are more vulnerable than other populations to scams, and individuals over 80 suffer even higher losses.

These scams can occur in a variety of ways. Sometimes, the elderly person is taken advantage of by a trusted friend or family member. In other situations, financial professionals and medical care providers abuse their position to commit these frauds. In other scenarios, complete strangers come into contact with elderly individuals through the internet or other means to perpetuate scams. While there is no limit to the ways your loved ones may be defrauded, the U.S. Department of Justice has identified several common scams to be on the lookout for.

Common Elder Fraud Scams

Many common scans involve fraudsters pretending to be representatives from federal agencies. For example, in a Social Security Administration imposter scam, victims are contacted via telephone and are convinced their social security numbers have been suspended because of suspicious or criminal activity. Victims will then confirm their social security numbers and even give imposters access to bank accounts, thinking it’s necessary for keeping their finances safe. Imposters use robocalls, caller ID spoofing, and U.S.-based money mules to convince victims of their legitimacy. Callers also use similar techniques to pretend to be the IRS, claiming victims owe substantial sums of money to the agency that they must pay quickly through wire transfers or gift cards. Victims who refuse are threatened with arrest or other official action.

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Medical emergencies, especially among aging individuals, can result in long-term rehabilitation and financial distress. Planning ahead for these emergencies is crucial, not only to preserve your assets and your independence but also to protect yourself from unscrupulous practices.

According to a recent article, a woman has filed a lawsuit alleging extensive financial fraud and abuse against a long-term elder care and rehabilitation facility. The woman, who lived alone and independently, entered the facility to recover from numerous medical issues after hospitalization. She alleges employees of the care facility repeatedly suggested that she get rid of her assets and live the remainder of her days in the nursing home facility, which she declined and insisted she did not wish to do.

After this refusal, she was placed on a cocktail of medications that put her under a fog, leading to hallucinations and confusion. It was then that she was coerced into signing a durable power of attorney agreement handing over control of all of her financial decisions to an officer of the care facility, whom the woman had never actually met. This officer kept her from seeing her family and eventually sold all of her assets, including her car, and listed her home on the market.

With the technology available in the 21st century—along with the COVID-19 pandemic—financial exploitation and fraud are at an all-time high. In fact, the FBI has determined that elder fraud has generally increased over the past year and that elder fraud is an FBI priority. Especially for the elderly, their diminished interaction with others during the pandemic makes it less likely to notice behavior that puts them at higher risk for exploitation. Despite this alarming news, the creation of a Texas estate plan can help reduce elder fraud and financial exploitation.

How to Prevent Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation is fraudulent action committed by a caregiver, fiduciary, or other individuals where they use the resources of an older person for their own personal gain. This often includes depriving the elder of their money, assets, and other belongings. Common examples of elder exploitation include theft of money by a caregiver or family member, a power of attorney improperly acting on behalf of the elder, and investment scams selling unnecessary financial services and products.

1.20.20“In 2018, 9.4% of all reports to BBB’s ScamTracker came from military personnel, veterans or their spouses, BBB of Metropolitan New York said.”

The scam victims who were military personnel, veterans or their spouses reported higher median losses than non-military consumers, the BBB said. says in its recent article entitled “Veterans warned to beware of scams that target military families” that a common scam is “pension poaching,” which targets elderly and disabled veterans and their families.

8.23.18Talk about going big–New York’s Governor Cuomo is expanding services for seniors at risk of elder abuse with an $8.4 million package, combining state and federal funding.

Governor Cuomo announced that services for vulnerable adults at risk of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation will be improved through a new initiative developed by the state’s Office of Victim Services and the Office for the Aging, named the Elder Abuse Interventions and Enhanced Multidisciplinary Teams Initiative.

The program will fund and support 23 existing multidisciplinary teams that are now fighting elder abuse and will establish additional teams to serve every county in the state by the fall of 2020, according to the website,’s article, “Governor Cuomo Announces $8.4 Million To Combat Elder Abuse And Financial Exploitation Statewide.”

8.2.17The sad truth is, foreign lottery scams are still around because they are successful for the scammers. Millions of Americans are targeted every year.

The first reaction from someone receiving a letter about a large award is often a wave of relief, especially if they are facing financial problems.

For an elderly couple who love their home and are having troubles with their finances, the arrival of a letter saying they’d on $4.5 million in a Spanish lottery seemed like an answer to their prayers. The story, reported by, “88-year-old nearly scammed by fake lottery, warns others,” starts out like so many similar scenarios. Luckily for this couple, a trusted estate planning law firm helped them steer clear.

Concerned elderThis is a story that any professional working with seniors finds particularly abhorrent. An investigation by the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice uncovered a scheme by a New Jersey woman, her sister and several others—including an attorney—to steal millions from elderly clients they were supposed to be helping.

The story was reported by New Jersey 101.5 in "NJ woman pleads guilty to scamming millions of dollars from the elderly."
A New Jersey State Police investigation led to the indictment of Sondra Steen along with her sister Jan Van Holt. The latter was the owner of a company that offered elderly clients in-home care and legal financial planning. Two other employees pleaded guilty to taking part in the scheme and stealing $125,000 from an elderly couple. Van Holt and Steen were charged with conspiring with a lawyer to steal over $2.7 million from 12 elderly clients.

Van Holt would target potential elderly clients who were known to have substantial assets with no immediate family. They would be offered help through the company with non-medical services such as running errands, managing finances, getting to appointments, and housework. Steen would then serve as the client's primary caregiver.

Scales of justiceeAn elderly many claimed that his trust was mismanaged and he brought action for financial elder abuse and other claims against his banking institution.  A California court ruled that because the gentleman had established residency in California and Australia, he was not protected under the state’s welfare code.

A judgment from the Santa Barbara Superior court was affirmed in an opinion by Judge Steven Perren of the California Court of Appeals. The court held that as a non-resident, Galt lacked standing to pursue such a claim for financial elder abuse because of his non-residency. This decision was reported in The Metropolitan News, in “Man, 85, Isn’t an ‘Elder,’ Under Statute, C.A. Rules.”

California Health and Welfare Code §15610.27 defines an “elder” as “any person residing in this state, 65 years of age or older.” Further, the Court of Appeals said in its opinion, that “[b]y his own admission, Galt does not reside in this state; consequently, under the plain meaning of the statute, he is not an elder.”

Money in mousetrapIf you had an email account in the 1990s, you were personally selected to help a Nigerian prince recover his rightfully due inheritance. He may have written to you many times, pleading with you for your help and thanking you profusely in advance for your generosity and kindness. Some of us got emails from different princes or members of African royalty who had been forced to flee their countries. The English was broken, but the message was clear – we were special, we had been chosen to help, and in return, we were going to be rich beyond our wildest dreams.  We were victims of an attempted scam.

The basic idea behind the scam was that an extremely wealthy person in Nigeria had his accounts frozen or could not transfer money out of the country without help. The scammer either requested that money be sent or that bank account numbers be sent to facilitate the transfer of the scammer's assets for which the person would be rewarded handsomely later.

That this was a scam seems obvious, as why would some wealthy African need the assistance of random Americans? However, everyone knows about the scam because it worked. The scammer just needs one person out of millions to take the bait. That is true with most common scams. Only one person needs to take the bait to make attempting to scam thousands worth the scammer's time.

  Man-person-clouds-apple-mediumAfter a long and high profile life of philanthropic endeavors, socialite Brook Astor died in 2007 with an estate worth $200 million.  Two years later, her son Anthony Marshall was convicted of stealing millions from her. Astor suffered from dementia, and Marshall was paying himself from her assets. While not all families enjoy this level of wealth, the fact pattern is not all that unusual.  A large and growing number of Americans suffer from dementia-type illnesses and a equally large number of them will be taken advantage of by family members.

States are now trying to provide greater protection for elderly investors, according to a recent Reuters article titled “Protecting dementia sufferers from scammers gains ground in U.S.” Retail brokers – in three states thus far, have been permitted to help deter scams against people with dementia.

The laws, which are being examined by other state legislatures, allow brokerages to halt an older client’s request to transfer money to others (at least temporarily) if a wealth manager suspects that his or her customer may have dementia and may be unknowingly be the victim of a scheme.

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