Money in the Middle

Sandwich Generation Talking About Money Up, Down and Across Generations

Watch for Signs of Elder Financial Abuse Among Boomers and Seniors

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A tough economy brings out financial scammers.  And older baby boomers and seniors are being caught. You just want to believe that the answer to your economic problems is on the other end of the phone.  There a heart wrenching story in today’s Wall Street Journal about a family fight to save an elder from scammers.  Alone after his wife’s death, “phone pals” start calling – first for a few dollars, then thousands. The family finally went to court to get authority over the finances.  Something no adult child wants to face.

 Family members walk a fine line in helping.  You can see the problems, but if you don’t have legal authority to do anything you can only cajole and nudge toward cutting off the scams—or taking legal action.

 While these stories are horrific, the fact is that most of the elder financial abuse comes at the hands of family members.  A recent report by the Met Life Mature Market Institute says the losses amount to more than $2.6 billion per year.  Many cases are never reported. The perpetrators are typically not stranger but family, business associates, in-home services and friends.

 If you are concerned about an elder loved one’s finances, there is a great list of warning signs in the MetLife study Broken Trust:  Elders, Family and Finances. 

  They include:

  • Signs of intimidation, withdrawn behavior
  • Talking about “new friends”
  • Significant changes in spending patterns
  • Changes in financial documents
  • Missing belongings or property

 You’ll also find a list of definitions and resources.  

 What you won’t find is an easy way to get action on what you think is a national or international scam.  Finding a local or national agency with resources to help is difficult.  Getting the elder to help you can be just as difficult.

 May the new consumer financial regulatory agency being discussed by the Obama Administration can help someday.  But in the meantime, this is an issue that will grow with our aging population.  And even if you can’t talk with your parents about their money, warn them about the tricks being played on the phone and the Internet by those trying to steal their retirement nest eggs.  And listen very carefully if they start referring to “new phone friends.”


One Response

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  1. Stating that family members are the main cause of elder financial abuse is a fallacy. This is what banks and attorneys and professional gusrdians and conservators want the public to believe. Are we to believe that most family members are criminals? No. The facts are that most elder financial abuse is perpetrated by strangers to the elder including attorneys, guardians (public and private), professional fiduciaries and stranger associates.

    Terri Alvillar

    June 17, 2009 at 11:57 pm

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