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Investor’s column: Elder fraud often begins with family. Here are tips to protect seniors

The National Council on Aging states that one in 10 Americans who are 60 or older experiences some form of abuse. That’s as many as five million seniors each year. That’s a national embarrassment that totals $36.5 billion lost every year.

It appears that family members are getting impatient waiting for their inheritances. Family, friends and caregivers commit nearly 90 percent of financial fraud perpetrated against elders in our country.

Here are the top 10 financial scams that target seniors according to the National Council on Aging:

Medicare and health insurance scams. In this scam, perpetrators pose as a Medicare representative to get personal information or they provide bogus services, use that personal information to bill Medicare and pocket the money.

Counterfeit prescriptions. These scams usually operate on the internet.

Funeral and cemetery scams. There are two scams here. One by dishonest funeral homes that charge for unneeded services. The other is someone seeing the funeral notice and then contacting the widow or widower claiming the deceased owes them money.

Fraudulent anti-aging products.

Mike Doll.jpg
Michael T. Doll is an investment planner with Harbor Financial in Bradenton.

Telemarketing scams. We have all received them, from fake IRS liens to buying things over the phone.

Internet fraud. This includes email phishing scams.

Investment schemes.

Homeowner reverse mortgage ploy.

Lottery and sweepstakes cons.

The grandparent scam. This is where someone calls and says “Hi Grandpa, do you know who this is?” That’s the start and of course ends with asking for money for unexpected expense.

There has been little progress in protecting seniors from these deplorable schemes.

Some suggestions to help protect our most vulnerable seniors:

Call or visit regularly. Be aware of a new “best friend.” Also watch for he or she becoming socially isolated. Be aware if he or she is being too much under the influence of their caregiver.

Block solicitations. Yes, you can opt out of commercial mail solicitations as well as for unsolicited credit offers.

Give caregivers a break. Caregivers who are financially stressed can be tempted. Many business positions involving money require that these employees take a vacation each year. Why? It often how financial scams are discovered. They are not there to cover up. Require the same of the caregiver.

Set up safeguards at the bank. If you are concerned about financial decisions of a relative, establish a small bank account for their access and keep the other accounts separate and secured.

Arrange for limited financial oversight. Direct the financial institutions to send statements and alerts to a trusted individual. In my business, we can establish duplicate statements and confirmations to be sent to multiple trusted individuals.

A new FINRA rule allows my industry to have a “trusted contact” added to each account. This allows us to follow up with someone to ensure the well being of a senior client.

In my experience, which now encompasses several decades, I have not experienced — that I know of — elder financial abuse. I have experienced cognitive decline in more than a few clients over the years.

When I see this, I make a relative aware that they will need to be more involved with the client. I recently experienced this with a family that has been a long-time client. Both parents are now in their mid-90s.

Over the past few years, they have declined cognitively. They are fortunate that one of their daughters lives with them. She has taken on the role of decision-maker. I am confident that she will continue to do what is best for her parents.

If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. Adult Protective Services is a good place to start. To find their services in our area, call the national resource line at 1-800-677-1116.

Michael T. Doll is an investment planner with Harbor Financial, 7907 25th Ave. W. in Bradenton. Contact him at 941-896-2473 or at mtdoll@harborfs.com.

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