Elder Financial Abuse: Lightning strikes twice

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Elder Financial Abuse: Lightning strikes twice

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Do you know a senior who has been the target of multiple frauds?

Last week I found myself, once again, wading through page after page of insurance policies in an effort to understand where a peculiar debit came from in a client’s bank account.

An older gentleman, this client already had a history of being scammed. In fact, he only became my client after having been befriended by his last bookkeeper, who used their “friendship” in order to “borrow” thousands of dollars from him.

It turned out she was just one of an ensemble of players – some of whom were not even aware of each other’s efforts – devoted to parting this gentleman and his money, a drama staged across 12 time zones.

Synopsis:

  • In California a woman enters into an online relationship with a gentleman from Brooklyn. She gradually empties her savings account for this individual, fully expecting to be paid back.
  • Meanwhile in Eastern Europe, some hackers get ahold of my client’s routing and account numbers and use them to manufacture checks, which are then bundled up and sent to Brooklyn.
  • The man from Brooklyn tells the woman from California that a “friend” of his owes him some money. His scheme involved telling her that his friend would be sending reimbursement on his behalf – when in fact, the checks were stolen from my client’s account.
  • The woman from California was told not to worry about who the checks came from. She deposits the checks, they clear, and she spends all the money. Later she is told that the checks are fraudulent, and that she is on the hook for all the money she spent.
  • When my client and I go to the police to file a report, we are told that nothing can be done locally and the matter is turned over to the bank’s international fraud department. According to them this was the work of a global fraud ring, which made it nearly impossible to trace.

With a history like that, it’s no wonder why I was incredulous last week upon seeing an large, unexplained debit posted against the same client’s new account. This time I was able to quickly send an email to his children while the transaction was still pending. They told me that neither one of them had authorized it. It turned out that it was another case of fraud.

According to the bank manager, identity thieves and other scam artists follow their victims around from bank to bank. The jury is still out as to whether or not this is the case – or if it is a case of a bank manager trying to deflect blame from his bank.

The takeaway lessons from this experience are clear to me:

  • Be wary of any caregiver or service provider who attempts to befriend the senior you love;
  • Always use strong passwords for every account and change them monthly;
  • When answering security questions, never give the right answers – the information they ask for is too obvious and is often available to the public – like your mother’s maiden name.

Do you know a senior who has been the target of multiple frauds? 

Judy Heft, Principal, Judy Heft & Associates is a professional and personal financial organizer with offices in Greenwich and Stamford. She can be contacted via email at judy@judithheft.com or by phone 203-978-1858.

1 Responses to “Elder Financial Abuse: Lightning strikes twice”

  1. Judy, another great article. Ours parents protected us from harm when we were young, now it’s our turn to protect our parents!

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