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Protect your Parents From Themselves

How to Protect your Parents From Themselves & Scams Involving the Elderly

Two-thirds of all wealth is held by senior citizens. With this enormous amount of wealth comes the opportunity for financial predators to exploit an elderly person's vulnerability and scam them out of some, or all of their assets. And believe me, these con artists won't stop until they have defrauded the victim out of all they can.

And this means their money to live on in their old age can be gone and dramatically diminished. Who pays the living expenses then? Will it be you? (Did you just feel a little tug on your wallet?) Or, stated another way, there goes the inheritance.

Senior citizens face issues that younger people typically don't even think about in their daily lives. A senior's group of contemporaries grows smaller as many of their lifelong friends have passed on or have their own health issues such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease. For just a minute, put yourself in their orthopedic shoes and reflect on the blessing of having a friend your age. A friend to talk about problems with that understands what you are relating, as others cannot, simply because the two of you are of the same generation.

Just as a professional athlete must one day face the fact that he or she has lost a step or a mile or two off of their fastball, seniors are faced with the realization that they just don't have it like they used to. We all want to go out like Peyton Manning did. Win the Super Bowl and retire at the top of our game. Senior citizens are no different. And many will do whatever it takes, in their mind, to make them feel like they are going out at the top of theirs. This is in addition to the guarantee that we all die. And that reality looms much larger as we age. That is a lot to think about. Denial sure is a lot less painful. Or something, anything to make one think "I've still got it!"

Enter the online scam. Just about everyone has online access to a computer, including the elderly. And online dating sites are rife with scam artists. There are even websites to help perpetrate the scam. Google "" and you can find drafts of letters to send to a victim. I will use an example of a male suitor and female target. It goes something like this...

  • The scammer contacts the victim through an online dating site.

  • The charm offensive begins with, a very successful, (oftentimes a civil engineer in the oil business) lonely guy that tailors the responses to the what the victim is looking for: likes to cook, travel, golf, etc.

  • As the relationship becomes more familiar, the above-referenced letters start with promises of meeting soon. They will meet just after the supposed boyfriend gets back from an overseas trip to close a multi-million dollar oil deal in, like say, oh, the Baltic Sea. His last deal before he retires (we all want to go out on top).


Now at this point, it is important to try and put oneself in the position of the victim. Being pursued by a successful, good looking (oh yes, pictures are sent and for an old guy, he looks pretty good) suitor feels great, fantastic. There is something to get excited about, look forward to. Hey, I may be getting on up in years, but there is still a little RPM in the old engine. These feelings are powerful. I submit, they beat the heck out of any antidepressant on the market. They are powerful enough to make a vulnerable person act in ways that are not in their best interest. Again ($) and again ($) and again ($).

Oh... and the scammer has a child in college in let's say, South Africa. The poor little fella had his cell phone and computer is stolen, right before final exams. "Please honey, would you purchase a (really nice) computer and (top of the line) cell phone and send to my son?  When we meet next week, I'll pay you back, remember, I've just got to close this Baltic Sea deal."

But that Baltic Sea deal gets to moving awfully slow, what with the storms and delays and such. There goes $5000-10,000.  

The multi-million dollar oil deal in the Baltic, you ask?  "Well, sugar pie, I need just $50,000 to close this deal and if you front the money, (to an account in the name of some strange, exotic business to a bank you've more than likely never heard of) I will pay you back and then some as we begin our world travels next week." But then something happens and the scammer has been wrongly arrested and he must have $10,000 to get out of jail and he needs it NOW!

Do you get the picture? Sound familiar? What can the people who love and care about the victim do to protect him or her?

The easiest, most effective and least expensive answer is to have a Power of Attorney executed by the elderly person long before this situation arises. Powers of attorney come in a variety of flavors and can be tailored to each individual situation. And by the way, Legal Zoom may cheap, but it is not always the least expensive.

But what if there is no Power of Attorney?

One option is to petition a court to have the victim appointed a conservator. This means a lawsuit to remove the victim's rights to make some or all of their decisions. The good news is Tennessee law provides that some, but not all of a person's rights can be removed. The benefit being that it allows the elderly person to retain decision-making power in their life overall decisions that are not given to the conservator. It allows them to maintain dignity and self-worth while providing some financial oversight by someone with the power to prevent or stop the scam.  

Do you have similar experiences involving the scamming of elderly loved ones? If so, or if you have any questions about Powers of Attorney or Conservatorship, please comment below.