First, how can you tell you are being conned?
According to Fraud Victim Advocacy, a non-profit organization a con artist (family or otherwise) looks for ways to manipulate a person’s strengths and weaknesses. They do this either by painting a perfect picture or by playing on that person’s fears.
To do this, a con will:
play on your sympathies (no one else understands me) instill in you a sense of security separate you from your friends and family by placing extreme secrecy on all facets of the outcome they want convince you to depend only on them and to believe only in them making everyone else out to be the liars (friends, family, banks, and law enforcement included) leaving only the con as telling the truth distract you from what is really going on using lies with just enough truth to make the lie seem believable. What they call “sleight of mind”.
Their whole goal is to make you completely dependent on them.
However, a more insidious type of financial abuse also poses a risk to seniors and their retirement nest eggs: family member fraud. Even a person who is knowledgeable and cautious about fraud attempts from strangers can be blindsided by exploitation from people professing to love and care for them.¹
In this case, the person is a family member conning another family member making her believe she is the only one who understands and cares. This person is completely betraying the elder’s trust. This isn’t the first time it happened and as before if someone were to report it as a crime, it would be denied by all parties.
Most of us think of financial exploitation as something that happens from strangers like investment scams or sweetheart scams. However, a large amount of fraud comes from much closer to home via family members, friends, and caregivers. Strangers will hide their true identity but family members use the close, trusting relationship of the victim. Around 6 in 10 cases of elder financial fraud are committed by family members.²
So far this family member moved in with a partner and a baby, talked the older person into buying yet another (this makes 5) car. The conning party did not buy a car, used the money to pay off a number of court fines instead. The person being conned was told the car didn’t drive right but never offered to return the money.
“The cases I see often involve a son or daughter or grandchild who convinces the elder to hand over money again and again by using different stories or who offers to help with bill paying and then drains money from the elder’s bank account. These situations can be nightmares for the elders who lose both their money and trusted family relationships,” says Tim McNeil, a partner at The Elder Law Firm in Portland, Oregon.
The partner is also taking money for repairs to the house (that haven’t been completed in 4 months time).
There are a couple of things in favor of the predator as in so many other cases involving the elder:
- it is an older person being conned
- this person was living alone out in the country
- is easily overwhelmed
- wants very much to believe the one in the position of the con has turned over a new leaf
What do I do? What is the RIGHT thing?
I personally struggled with what I should do about this. It makes me angry and I am grateful to not be right in the middle of this drama as it plays out.
Tonight, I lit my three candles (for me they are one each for body, mind, and spirit) I use to focus my attention on the God of my understanding and simply asked what I should do. I looked at the candles, gained my focus and quieted my thoughts and asked, “what is the right thing to do here?”
My answer was simple compared to my expectations.
- remove all emotion for these actions and people
- stick to the truth and tell it (it is up to the ones involved to believe or not believe)
- only take action if it is life-threatening
- let everything else go
I now have a plan of action that doesn’t involve anger or retaliation or ego. I feel at peace with what I can and cannot do to protect the elder and assets. I will speak my truth and take the necessary actions led by my spirit, not my ego.
Fraud is a terrible thing for an older person to be exposed to, especially when it is perpetrated by a family member. A stranger can’t hurt a person as deeply as someone who is trusted. A deeper sense of betrayal is attached to those we trust, witness our vulnerability, and then abuse it. Only 1 in 44 of these cases are ever reported.³
¹Fraud in the Family “How to detect and avoid elder financial abuse.” by Stacey Wood, Ph.D. for Psychology Today
²Fraud in the Family “How to detect and avoid elder financial abuse.” by Stacey Wood, Ph.D. for Psychology Today
³Fraud in the Family “How to detect and avoid elder financial abuse.” by Stacey Wood, Ph.D. for Psychology Today