Elders are often victims because they may be cognitively impaired. They’re often alone or have no one with whom they can confer; no one to watch over them. They often have a lifetime worth of assets, making them all the more attractive to criminals. Diminished capacity and assets feed opportunistic cyber criminals.
The two main categories of financial abusers are: 1) people they know, i.e. family members, neighbors, friends, and 2) criminals who usually use the internet and telephone to gain access to victims. These are often sophisticated “professionals” who are quite successful in convincing an elder to part with his/her money.
If you’re afraid to interfere because it might cause family problems, call the Elder Abuse Hotline in your area. They will usually take a confidential report. Family members may have different motives such as desperation caused by a gambling or drug habit, a feeling that they’ve been short-changed in the family, and are “entitled” to money, or they are just broke and need money to pay bills.
Elders are especially vulnerable to sophisticated criminals who may call and ask for donations for a charity. Often after a hurricane or other natural disaster covered on the news there is an increase in internet scams asking people to send money or use a credit card to “help the victims” of the disaster. Some scammers contact elders and tell them they have won a lottery prize or grant, however, they cannot deliver the money until after payment of a “processing fee” or administrative fee.” Another form of internet scam on the rise involves online dating. Scammers form relationships online and then approach elders asking for money for e.g. a sick loved one who needs a medical operation.
The best way to prevent this type of theft is to keep an eye on the financial activities of the elder. If this is not possible, contact an attorney, elder protective agency, or the police with your suspicions to get some advice from persons experienced in these matters. If you suspect fraud do not wait. It takes about thirty minutes to wire money to an account at a foreign bank. This money will be immediately picked up on the other end, usually as cash, and the money will be gone forever.