We have looked at at the explosive growth of online dating scams this week, but there is another group of people that con men have a long history of preying upon, as this recent story noting the rise of “The Grandparents Scam” illustrates.
The reality is that a certain group of con artists focus their efforts on the elderly. The elderly can make excellent marks for many reasons. First, many elderly people have significant financial resources and do not have the same obligations that younger people may have, such as a mortgage, car payment, college savings, or saving for retirement. This gives many of the elderly access to cash.
Second, the elderly can often be lonely and desire attention and affection. As spouses and friends begin to die, the daily contacts that elderly people have established over a lifetime begin to slip away. Children, grandchildren, and other relatives may try to fill those voids but be unable to do so because of other commitments in their own work, and families of their own. This can leave the elderly looking for companionship.
Third, while impaired judgment is not an inevitable part of aging, it is a common occurrence as people age. The combination of loneliness, confusion, and access to cash makes elderly people perfect targets for predators.
What can you do to help make sure that con artists are not preying upon your elderly relatives?
1. Make time for your relatives.
Even if you cannot be there, physically, make sure and maintain your relationship with regular phone calls. Ask about what is happening in their lives and take an interest in any new connections that they make.
2. Encourage your relatives to do what they can to establish and maintain current connections.
If that is no longer possible in their physical location, a move closer to family or to a senior community where they will have ready access to social groups might merit further investigation.
3. Be honest in your assessment of an elderly relative’s judgment capabilities.
No one wants to deprive an elderly relative of the freedom of being in charge of their own finances or other decisions, but it is far worse to ignore developing problems for too long and find out that dementia has led to an elderly relative making disastrous personal choices that leave them dependent upon others for financial care.
4. Be proactive.
If you have any suspicions about a new person in your elderly relative’s life, you can run a background check through a service like BeenVerified. While not all con artists will have a red flag in their background check such as a criminal record for fraud, a background check does more than let you know about a criminal record. It can also tell you if the person has been honest with the information he or she has shared with your relatives.
Any significant lies are red flags that may merit further investigation or intervention by you.