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11 Things You Can Do To Protect From Elder Scams

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Exploitation of the Elderly

Scams targeting the elderly have become an increasingly concerning issue, exploiting vulnerabilities and often resulting in significant financial and emotional distress for victims. These scams can take various forms, including telephone fraud, internet phishing, and even door-to-door schemes, where scammers use deceitful tactics to gain trust before swindling their targets out of money or personal information. The elderly, often perceived as more trusting and less tech-savvy, are particularly at risk.

These scams not only lead to the loss of life savings but can also cause a profound sense of betrayal and a decrease in quality of life. Awareness and education are key in combating these malicious acts, as is the implementation of stronger protective measures by families, communities, and authorities to safeguard the well-being of the elderly population.

The Role of the Lawyer

Lawyers play a crucial role in advising and protecting individuals, including the elderly, from the pervasive threat of scams. Their expertise in legal frameworks and rights enables them to offer invaluable guidance on how to recognize and avoid fraudulent schemes. By educating clients about the common characteristics of scams, such as unsolicited communications or too-good-to-be true offers, lawyers empower them to act with caution and skepticism. Furthermore, in the unfortunate event of falling victim to a scam, lawyers can provide critical assistance in navigating the complex legal avenues for recourse, such as reporting the crime to the appropriate authorities, and pursuing litigation or other legal actions to recover lost assets. Their advocacy and intervention are essential in not only providing a safety net for victims but also in fostering a broader awareness and deterrence of scams in the community.

Some practical advice for clients includes:

• Refrain from sharing your personal details over phone calls, through the mail, or online.
• If an offer seems unclear or suspicious, it’s best to ignore it.
• Ensure you get a written estimate for any job and make payments only after the work is completed to your satisfaction.
• Properly dispose of any documents containing your credit card information by shredding them.
• Protect your Medicare, Social Security, and credit card information diligently.
• Avoid signing documents that are blank or consenting to open-ended permissions.
• Exercise caution when approached by telemarketers or door-to-door sales agents, unless they are known and trusted by you.
• Approach offers that claim to be free with skepticism, as they may have hidden costs.
• Stand your ground against high-pressure sales tactics that aim to coerce you into making purchases.
• Steer clear of conducting business with unfamiliar companies.
• Be vigilant against telephone fraud, particularly scenarios where someone pretends to be a relative in distress requiring financial help.

 

Need to discuss a plan for your loved one? Call us for a no obligation consultation.

FRAUD: The “F” Word of Estate Planning

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Fraud is a label to run from – not walk from

As an attorney that practices in areas of law that have both local and national scope – reading and reviewing scholarly writings and recent case decisions is critical to staying current. From these readings, we come to learn and respect the work done by other attorneys and how they are best representing their clients and their interest.

One such article came across my desk entitled “Medicaid Planning Technique Didn’t Work Exactly as Intended” a link to the full article can be found HERE.

The article examines what could be best described as a case study of one attorneys recommendations to a client who was retained to assist the family with Medicaid planning and qualification. As the title infers, the plan did not work out as explained and the clients goals and objectives were not carried out with the suggested plan proposed and enacted by the attorney. Fraud ruins any thought of a clever estate plan – and once that genie is let out of the bottle – it is hard to get it back in.

If it seems too good to be true – it probably is

The case is a lesson for both client and attorney. Just because you can do something – does not always mean you should. Deciding on an estate plan with the goal of qualifying for Medicaid benefits is something that must weigh all of the factors and rules. Knowledge of family dynamic, conflicts, tensions, and history are as important as understanding the rules of Medicaid eligibility, assets and income.

Fraud is a badge that does not wash off easily. Having to defend yourself or others from being accused of absconding with the assets of an elderly loved one is not something anyone wants to envision. There are legal consequences – which translate into strained relationships and possibly property and certainly financial penalties with the ultimate loss of liberty.

The author of the article makes the following suggestions when selecting an elder law attorney to work with:

  1. Be careful about selecting your lawyer. Do you want someone who really knows estate planning and/or Medicaid planning? Check out their reputation, their online information, and recommendations from friends and colleagues. Did you meet the lawyer at a promotional seminar at the public library or a local restaurant? Make sure you’re not being sold something you don’t really want or need.
  2. Does a particular Medicaid planning technique sound almost too good to be true? Be suspicious and ask for input from others.
  3. When a lawyer agrees to meet with you and your family member together, that suggests something troublesome. We are supposed to represent just one person, not a whole family. Recognize that your interests and those of your family member might differ, and respect the lawyer’s efforts to maintain that separation.
  4. Recognize that even though an idea — and particularly a Medicaid planning technique — might work, it might also have unintended secondary effects.

 

Fraud: Targeting the Elderly

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Schemes Targeting Elderly Not Limited to Tax-Related Scams

While tax-related fraud schemes aimed at seniors have been in the news, financial schemes targeting the elderly aren’t restricted to those involving Internal Revenue Service impersonation calls or tax refund fraud.Elder Fraud

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a civil complaint alleging multiple international mail fraud schemes that have defrauded elderly and vulnerable U.S. victims out of tens of millions of dollars. According to the complaint, U.S. residents received fraudulent direct mail solicitations that falsely claimed that individual victims had won, or would soon win cash, prizes or other bonus. The solicitations appeared to be personalized even though they were really form letters mailed to hundreds of thousands of potential victims.

The solicitations typically matched one of three types:

  • False claims that the victim is the winner of a lottery or sweepstakes and will receive winnings if they pay a processing fee;
  • False claims that the victim has won a large sum of money and should purchase a “guaranteed,” “secret” method for winning lotteries and other games of chance; or
  • Solicitations allegedly from a psychic who has “seen” the victim winning large sums of money through the lottery or other contest which will only happen if with the purchase of various supernatural and divinatory objects or services.

fraud-alertIn some instances, the solicitations claim that the recipient has already been confirmed the winner of a prize in bold, prominent lettering, but then explain in smaller text that the prize drawing has not yet taken place or that there is no prize drawing. Potential prizes touted were said to be in excess of $20,000 and included cash, checks, amounts held in trust, and cars. DOJ estimates that more than half a million victims responded, netting the defendants $18 million.

 

Elder Abuse from Children – the Opioid Crisis

Reports of suspected elder abuse in Massachusetts have surged over the past five years, according to state figures — a troubling increase that law enforcement and elder advocates say is fueled in part by the opioid crisis and addicted adult children exploiting parents and other relatives. Since 2011, abuse reports have climbed 37 percent, with more than 1,000 additional cases reported each of the past five years to protective services offices. The Executive Office of Elder Affairs, the agency that tracks and investigates abuse, recorded nearly 25,000 cases last year, but the state’s numbers do not delineate how many involved opioids. More adult children addicted to opioids are moving back in with their elderly parents, Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan said. Retired parents, with their monthly Social Security and pension checks, become easy targets for financial, physical, and emotional abuse.

Protecting the Elderly from Fraud

Want to protect your elderly loved one? While people certainly have the right to choose where they spend their money, we don’t want our loved ones prayed upon and taken advantage of. Keep in close contact with your loved one.  Watch for any changes in spending or behaviors. Review mail received for any solicitations that are seeking donations of payments. If irregularities are noted, inquire into spending habits. If possible, review banking and financial records.

Consider executing a Durable General Power of Attorney to address any competency issues. A fully considered and executed estate plan will often minimize the chance that the Elderly will be targeted by fraudulent activity.

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