As the baby boomers age and reach retirement age, many will be updating their estate plans. For those who have not yet created a will, it is better to do it late than not at all. A well-thought-out estate plan could be one way for the elderly to protect their assets from a growing problem — elder scams.
According to professional sources, AARP and a number of other organizations are pointing to the growing problem of nefarious individuals who take advantage of the elderly. Even family members can be guilty of financial abuse of the elderly.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the federal Office of older Americans are targeting financial abuse by family members. An estate plan that features a will, living will, powers of attorney and other legal documents could be an antidote to financial elder scams. If an elderly person has confidence in their estate plan, they may be less susceptible to pressure from disreputable people.
According to news sources, there are a few main types of elder scams that target the elderly.
- The grandparent scam in which a grandchild calls with an emergency and needs money fast
- The lottery scam in which an elderly person wins a prize for a contest they didn’t enter
- The toilet paper scam in which an elderly person wins products or services they don’t really need
Financial elder abuse crosses all demographic boundaries. In 2009 the son of multimillionaire philanthropist Brooke Astor was found guilty of exploiting his mother’s dementia. Actor Mickey Rooney thought he was broke but has recently charged his stepson of defrauding him out of millions. A woman in New York with limited means was cheated out of $100 in a gift prize scam.
The FBI reported that it received more than 300,000 complaints last year worth an estimated $500 million in losses.
The professionals recommend vigilance as well as estate planning to protect the assets of the elderly such as home equity, pensions and Social Security income.
Source: Times-Standard, “Elder Scams on the rise,” David Crary, April 3, 2012