I remember when my late father told me that he paid a credit card bill that he didn’t charge. When I asked him why, he said in a very high-pitched uneasy voice, “I don’t know.”

Why do some elderly people fail with their finances and fall so easily for scams? The majority of our population realizes that people won’t hide their money in another person’s bank account. They understand that the offer of free money from a prince from Africa isn’t real.

Many elderly people are very lonely and are often secluded from others. They have been cast aside and are not regularly watched by the people who claim to love them. A smooth-talking scammer might call them on the telephone, smother them with kindness and understanding, and sound convincing by using an expert sounding voice. They’re often friendly, sympathetic and willing to offer help in any way, and in some cases, they employ fear. The method they use depends on the kind of scam they select. Scammers probably know within seconds if they have an easy target on the other end of the telephone line. They’ve practiced what they are going to say and they can easily win the trust of their elderly victim.

In my father’s case, he was surrounded by many people who cared, so I’m certain that he had diminished mental capacity. Scammers know that it’s easy to obtain or buy lists of names and ages, and that makes finding elderly victims easy. Unfortunately, laws don’t prohibit anyone from buying names, ages, telephone numbers and even addresses.

I recently read that people over the age of 65 are more likely to lose money in a monetary scam than someone in their 40s. Also, around one third of people aged 85 or higher have some form of dementia. Researchers indicate that Alzheimer’s patients often lose their monetary judgement first, and the monetary loss isn’t as obvious in the early stages as it is substantial.

Especially for the elderly who have a lump of money rather than a pension, the fear of not having adequate means to survive is real. Maybe it has something to do with greed, or maybe it is simply the lure of easy money, but many elderly people lived through hard financial times, and they are easily duped by scammers. Even some elderly people who had plenty of money were victimized by scammers.

It doesn’t appear that schooling, aptitude or experience in the field of economics makes a financial difference when an elderly person has impaired judgement. Scammers are so good at their trade that they can easily dupe anyone who is vulnerable.

An offer to help keep an eye on their finances can protect elderly loved ones from scammers. A loving adult, with the elderly person’s consent, can open the elderly person’s bank account online and monitor it. Many elderly people will refuse to give consent because of pride or because of their feeling or their knowledge that they can handle it themselves.

When a friend’s dad was in his early 80s, he got wind of a female that his dad met online and occasionally sent money. His mom had already passed, and there wasn’t anyone else who he could ask for help. In desperation, he asked his dad to describe the female, and he said he had never met her. He also told my friend that they were in love. I don’t know if it was his intuition or something very obvious, but he knew something was terribly wrong. He told his dad that he was being scammed, but his dad basically told him to put his opinion where the sun doesn’t shine.

His dad suffered a stroke in the hospital, and my friend received his dad’s power of attorney. When he tried to organize his finances, he learned that his dad had already sent the female nearly a half million dollars. Unfortunately, that sort of thing happens too often.

For so much of his later life, his dad felt lonely, isolated, and cut off from the world, even though his family doted on him regularly. Ultimately, his family became his lifeline into a world that he desperately needed. His dad passed a couple of years later.

Having a conversation with an elderly person about their finances might be difficult, but if they are willing, it just might save everyone future heartache. A loved one might be an elderly person’s only safety net. So be there, and catch their fall.

Charlie Sewell is a retired Powder Springs police chief. His book “I’d Rather You Call Me Charlie: Reminiscences Filled With Twists of Devilment, Devotion and A Little Danger Here and There” is available on Amazon. Email him at retiredchiefsewell@gmail.com.


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