It’s probably incomprehensible that your Dad who is the most fiscally responsible person you know or your Mom who warned you every day about “stranger danger” could get scammed. However, one recent study reported by Consumers Digest estimated that there are at least 5 million cases of elder financial abuse in the United States each year yet, according to a 2011 AARP study, only 25 percent of senior scam victims report their fraud cases to authorities. Unfortunately, Home Instead Senior Care of Minneapolis CAREGivers all too often witness scam attempts against their clients by unscrupulous people who call seniors on the telephone, knock on their doors in their quiet Minnesota neighborhood or otherwise solicit them for fraudulent purposes. That is why we developed the Senior Fraud Protection Kit. Click here to download your kit which contains senior fraud triggers and targets, a checklist to scam proof your senior and a handy list to put next to Mom or Dad’s computer or phone of do’s and don’ts that can help protect them from scammers.
As Client Care Coordinator for Home Instead of Minneapolis, Jill Heley-Otterson is a trusted advisor to the seniors we serve. So trusted in fact, that she was recently contacted by one of our clients asking if Jill could help get her out of a “real mess” she’d gotten herself into and she did not want her husband or children to know what was going on. Jill went to her home and found out that for the last 2-3 months, she had given almost $5000 to two men that kept calling her day and night. They told her she was going to get an expensive new car and $2 million as a Publisher’s Clearinghouse winner, but she had to pay a few installments in order to collect her winnings. They kept instructing her to go to a local Minneapolis area pharmacy and purchase certain green packets. Once she added money to them, they would call her back and ask for the scratch-off code on the back in order to access the funds. It appeared that each time was around $750. She finally realized that she was being conned but, having lost so much, she kept thinking that if she just paid them ONE more time, that she would actually get the car and $2 million…and that they would stop calling her. These guys were very convincing, and knew just what to say to keep her on the hook.
The local law enforcement has no way of tracing or investigating this type of crime because the people making the calls are usually overseas and use computers to re-route the numbers. Jill worked with the client to block the two numbers she had for these men, but as they sat there, the calls immediately started up again with local numbers showing on the caller ID. The only way to stop the calls was to turn the phone off. With the client’s permission, Jill called Adult Protection to report what was happening. In the end, her family was made aware of the situation and both her home number and cell number had to be changed and family is closely monitoring the client’s finances and bills.
When a client of Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis was diagnosed with MS, even though she was not seriously ill, her son and daughter in law persuaded her to turn over all of her financial affairs to them. In addition, she deeded the house over to them. In doing so, she basically gave up any say she had in how her money was spent – and her son and daughter in law took full advantage of this. They went on trips to Las Vegas with her money, bought things for themselves and took over the home by moving into it and relegating her to just being in a couple of the rooms that were wheelchair accessible. They created a very hostile work environment for the CAREGivers. They were only allowed to talk to the client and they could not talk to or engage with the young granddaughter that lived there also. They would get suspicious and nasty if the client and the CAREGiver were having a conversation that they could not hear – and would yell at them about it. Home Instead got calls from the son and daughter in law saying the CAREGivers were not allowed to purchase anything for the client (even a candy bar) unless it was approved by them and the CAREGivers were not allowed to park in the driveway, even in the winter. The client was totally isolated from her family – not allowed to call her sister or her friends. This is why Home Instead kept sending CAREGivers out there, simply to make sure that there were eyes and ears while authorities and family were making plans to get her out of this situation. Adult Protection was brought into the situation. The daughter in law was also very specific in the age and appearance of our CAREGivers because she did not trust her husband with them. The police came to the door one day because the son had snow blown the entire yard of snow onto the street, and cars could not get by. He demanded that our CAREGiver not open the door to the police! She did defy him, which made him very angry. All in all, this was a very hostile environment both for our client and our CAREGivers.
Our primary CAREGiver and our Client Care Coordinator helped the client make a plan to move to an assisted living facility, secretly. It took some time and a lot of planning and when the son and his wife were out of town – she secretly made the move with the belongings she wanted with her. The facility had extra security involved to prevent her son and his wife from having contact with her or causing trouble. Their pictures were at the front desk (and probably still are) stating that they are not allowed in the building. Our client was so thrilled to be reunited with her sister and other family. She has been thriving, is happy in her new environment, still receives services from us, and is engaged in her new community. Her son and daughter in law no longer have her money to live off of and are involved in a huge legal mess that is ongoing as far as we know.
Another scam case was less intrusive but could have been equally as damaging. A senior client of Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis had endless magazine subscriptions that just kept coming and coming! He was getting invoices for the magazines even though his current subscription is paid up for the next ten years. He didn’t realize that he’d paid so far ahead and thinks that he actually needs to pay each of these invoices. Our CAREGiver is monitoring this by insisting that together, they look at a current magazine to find the end date before paying on any more invoices. She is also coaching him to say no to telemarketers. It’s difficult for seniors who may be lonely. They may not mind hearing a friendly voice on the other end of the line… even if they are asking for something. It makes it very hard for them to say NO.
Home Instead’s mission is to help keep Minnesota seniors living safely and independently in their homes for as long as possible includes helping to protect older adults from those trying to take advantage of them.
We are proud to serve as a second set of eyes to help deter tricksters and scammers. With the legacy they leave all of us, our nation’s seniors are treasured commodities that deserve to be shielded from criminals and thieves – a mission we can all feel good about embracing.