Tips for Caregivers
If It Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Usually Is
Predators are coming up with new scams all the time. If you are a caregiver or family member of an older adult, please share this information to help reduce the risk of your loved one becoming a victim of financial abuse or exploitation.
Prize Offers, Lotteries & Sweepstakes Scams
These scams generally involve informing the victim that he/she could win, or already has won, a "valuable" prize or large sum of money. Con artists use the promise of a prize or award to entice consumers to send money or buy overpriced products. But, there is a catch: to claim your prize, you are asked to pay a fee and the merchandise is worth a lot less than what was paid. Seniors are the primary targets of these types of scams. Many older consumers have been hooked on these scams, often spending thousands of dollars on the merchandise they didn't really need but thought they did.
Senior homeowners are often the target of unscrupulous lenders who pressure them into high-interest loans they may not be able to repay. Homeowners are persuaded to borrow money through home equity loans for home improvements, debt consolidation or to pay for unanticipated medical costs. Often these loans are advertised as a "miracle financial cure," and homeowners can be devastated to find out that they cannot afford to pay off the loan. These loans are often packed with excessive fees, costly credit insurance, high pre-payment penalties and balloon payments. Sometimes, seniors end up losing their home.
Before borrowing, make sure the older adults in your care know exactly what they are getting and for what they are paying. No one should ever be afraid to ask the lender to explain any fees, terms or conditions not understood. No one should ever sign a blank form and everyone should make sure that what they sign is what they have agreed to verbally. Also, lender's references should be checked.
Living Trust Scams
Living trust scams, or living trust mills, are a growing area of senior financial abuse. Con artists make millions of dollars every year selling unnecessary trusts and annuities to seniors. Often, seniors pay substantial sums of money to sales agents for living trust mills. Through fraud and deceit, the sales agents damage seniors' estate plans and the security of their investments and life savings. Often these scam operators visit assisted living centers, churches and other places where seniors gather, hooking seniors through free seminars and other sales presentations.
Advise those in your care that to avoid becoming a victim of a living trust scam they should remember that living trust mill sales agents are not attorneys and are not experts in estate planning. They should watch out for companies that sell trusts and also try to sell annuities or other investments at the same time. An attorney qualified in estate planning can decide if a living trust or other estate planning documents are needed, or help review an existing trust or will. Planning an estate and choosing investments involve important legal, financial and personal decisions.
Everyone should consult with people they know and trust, such as their financial or tax advisor, their attorney, and trusted family members.
Investment Seminars & Financial Planning Activity
Con artists use investment seminars and pose as financial planners offering appealing and unrealistic investment advice to unsuspecting seniors. These presentations usually focus on three things:
- How liquid it is (how easily an individual can get their principle back if they need to)
- How safe it is
- The return or profit on the investment
Extra fees or phony investment opportunities are usually not discovered by the investor until it is too late.
Whenever a salesman presents an investment opportunity, before a purchase decision is made, a comparison should be done on the investment being considered and other opportunities from other firms. No one should ever make a buying decision at the time of the sales pitch. Everyone should take the time to consult with someone whose opinion they trust before making any decision. The safe motto to follow is: Investigate before you invest.
Home Improvement Scams
Each year, many seniors are victims of poor, overpriced, or never-completed home repairs. Home improvement scams are often committed by individuals or groups who go door-to door peddling home improvement services. Their favorite victims are older homeowners who often live in a home that needs work and who aren't likely to do the work themselves. These con artists are experts at convincing seniors to agree to home improvements or repairs, whether they are needed or not. These repairs could be a new roof, a driveway, windows or air conditioning. Oftentimes, they offer to do the work for a very low fee if the homeowner agrees to have the work done immediately. Later, after the victim agrees to the repairs, it is often discovered that the work was not fully completed or done poorly using inferior materials. Unfortunately, there is usually no recourse since many of these individuals or groups are transient, moving among neighborhoods, cities, and even states.
How to Report Abuse
If you suspect elder abuse, call someone now! You do not have to be positive of the abuse, and you do not have to give your name. You are protecting someone from further harm by reporting elderly abuse or suspected elderly abuse.
If an elder is in danger now, call:
- Your State Elder Abuse Hotline
Pennsylvania's 24 Hour Elder Abuse Hotline