by Julie Randolph, Care Coordinator
Dr. Peter Lichtenburg of the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University states that 1 out of 20 older adults in the U.S. is a victim of financial exploitation, losing an average of $80,000 to $186,000. Right here in Midland County, we receive calls from older adults who have been exploited financially. Examples of these situations include:
- An older adult unable to make ends meet after a family member experiencing financial trouble convinced them to take out a mortgage on their home with proceeds going to that family member. The older adult then finds themselves seeking assistance to obtain basic needs like heat and food because the resulting mortgage payment far exceeds their retirement income.
- People professing to be caregivers asking for unused automobiles, with promises to make payments, and then never returning to provide either the care or car payments.
- Situations where a seemingly credible stranger requested private information in an authoritative tone. Often, only after the older adult has provided account and identification numbers do they realize what has occurred.
- In some instances, we have heard from older adults who gave access codes to move their social security direct deposit to another account, believing it was their bank making necessary data changes.
- In other cases, family members reached out to us for advice about how to stop their parent from participating in money laundering schemes. The newfound purpose, friendship, productivity, and pride in work can make an older adult vulnerable to working for criminals.
The primary antidote to losing your hard-earned money to these criminals is simple: TALK TO OTHERS about your experience before taking any action requested by the callers. Scams are almost always introduced with an insistence on secrecy and urgency. Recognize the hallmarks of secrecy and urgency and remember that anything or anyone who restricts you from discussion with others has something to hide.
Many older adults come to Senior Services for assistance because their family and friends made them feel shame for being the victim of the crafty coercion of criminals. If someone you know experiences financial exploitation, we encourage you to respond with grace. Speak openly, with kindness and understanding about the incident. Understanding and sharing may help others avoid the same fate.
Remember, if it is too good to be true, it is. If it provokes fear and feels wrong, it is. If it is the real thing, it can wait for open discussion with others before proceeding with information or actions. As always, Care Coordination staff is here to listen and assist, whether or not you are a current client.