Home > 2015 > Identity Theft

6 Horror Stories of Elder Financial Abuse

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 2 Comments

Elder financial abuse is a big problem that’s getting bigger.

Back in 2010, MetLife released a report estimating that $2.9 billion is lost by America’s elderly each year, based on published accounts of fraud, but most observers believed that figure was low. A new survey released last week might be closer to the mark: True Link Financial, which helps the elderly manage their money, estimates that seniors lose $36 billion every year, and roughly 1 in 3 older Americans have been scammed in the past five years.

“Those of us working in the field have long known that the United States is in the throes of an elder financial abuse epidemic,” said Shawna Reeves, Director of Elder Abuse Prevention at the Institute on Aging, reacting to the survey. ”Unfortunately, we’ve lacked well-designed studies capturing the true nature and scope of the problem. This study is a game changer. Not only does it challenge the previous studies but it serves as a clarion call for further research and action.”

While the financial loss estimates are based in part on an online poll, reaction to Credit.com’s recent coverage of the elder fraud crisis certainly supports True Link’s findings. Hundreds of sad stories poured into my email, and onto comment boards. Below is a representative sample of them, showing the various ways seniors can be separated from their money.

The Sweepstakes Spiral

My mother-in-law lived in another state. When my father in law died, we could not convince her to leave the house they built together.

Many of the problems you outlined and then some followed. … The biggest fraud was all the letters that said “You have won $500,000” in big print “this could be you” was in small print. She had sent “donations” and “subscriptions” to them all. Thousands of dollars gone in the mail, and we did not know about it until we saw shoe boxes filled with the things. She had sent her money in and did not understand why her big payday never came.

Scammers Targeted My Mom

My 80-year-old mother was scammed out of about $25,000. She gave everything she had and when she ran out of savings she was convinced to go take out small loans and wire the money. The scammers were out of Canada and convinced her that she had won a big lottery but she had to pay the duties and taxes before she would get her payout. She called my brother one day and told him she needed $800 right away which was the red flag. I found all of the Western Union receipts where she had wired the money, totaling $25,000. I’m sure there was more than that that I did not find. I filed a case with the FBI and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and were told unless they caught the perps with evidence leading back to her directly there would be no justice. I had to take over her finances completely and take care of her bills and give her cash every week because we still do not trust that it wouldn’t happen again. I had to change her phone number and monitor her mail and found that she literally received mail every day trying to dupe her of money. She’s 88 now and lives on (Social Security), about $1,200 per month. If I were face to face with the people who did this to her I would have no mercy.

When the Victim Feels Betrayed

I have an elderly friend — 84 — who got caught up in a scam.  She apparently got a phone call from a “sweet-talker” and then received a letter with a Bank of America logo which, of course was fake. The (English) was rather poor, but she fell for it anyway. (They said) they would deposit $3.5 Million in her account (which she doesn’t have with Bank of America) if she would send money to them for lawyer fees, accountant fees, etc.

She is a person I never thought would fall for something like this. It was only by accident that I discovered she had sent thousands of dollars (mostly to addresses in Florida). Needless to say I gave all information to her own bank, which promptly searched and found these people to be very bad. When her lawyer told her of all this, she actually was angry that I had looked at her checkbook and journal.

From Millionaire to Medicaid

I read your article with great interest as this happened with my parents and no one would do anything. My father was a very successful businessman who suffered two strokes, starting at the age of 60. My brother moved in after the second stroke to help care for him. He then convinced my parents it would be healthier if they moved to …(a) warmer climate. At the point of the move, he changed the address of their financial statements to go to a P.O. box … He then forged their names and opened fraudulent bank accounts where he took more than $3 million. He was able to do this by calling their financial advisor and having the funds wired.

We were forced to … put my father in a nursing home as my mother could not care for him.  He had to be placed on Medicaid as there was no money left for his care.

We Couldn’t Stop Her From Spending

My mother gave away all of her money to these scams. My sisters and I had to get her to let us invest some before she gave it all away, so we would have money to bury her. That in itself is a sad statement. At one point she told me, “I invested my money with an offshore account and I don’t think I will ever see my money again, because the lady won’t return my calls,” and “I don’t have any life insurance.”

She was suckered in by the psychic scams, the lotteries from different countries, and all kinds of charity (scams), to the tune of over $250,000. Mom would give us envelopes to mail to some of these places. Fortunately we were able to intercept them, since inside was cash, because my sister was on her checking account.

We tried everything. Telling callers nothing was done without consulting her attorney and/or financial advisor; alerting bank personnel; logging phone numbers and addresses to turn over to the authorities; threats; etc. The State of California would not even help since, despite her age, she had the wherewithal to wait until my sister was not home, call a cab, go to the bank and withdraw thousands of dollars. Which apparently went to the person who was waiting for her to hand it over for an “investment.”

These people hound and harass the elderly by inundating them with mail and phone calls. Calls at all hours, I might add. Stacks and stacks of mail solicitations. It is no different than stalking.

Alcohol, New Friend Fuel the Mistakes

Yes, our mother has given well over half a million dollars to her “boyfriend.” She has mortgaged her house to “invest” in his jewelry business. Written checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Opened credit cards and charged $20,000 at a time.

My father died 5 years ago and left her relatively wealthy. Thankfully there is a trust protecting a portion of it. My sister and I have had many discussions with her. It doesn’t help that she’s an alcoholic who wants to believe all the beautiful lies he tells.

If you’re worried that a family member or friend may have fallen victim to identity theft, a scam or financial abuse, it’s important to contact law enforcement immediately to file a report and freeze any new applications for credit.

If you have a story you’d like to share, write to me at bob@credit.com.

More on Identity Theft:

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

  • Laurie Silvan Hughes

    I read your article with interest, as my mom was a victim of elder abuse – physical, emotional, and financial. She was kidnapped from her home of 27 years and relocated to an unknown city. The perpetrator was my sister and brother-in-law. But I want to comment on your last sentence “… it’s important to contact law enforcement immediately…” In the course of a year, I contacted the police department of two cities, the sheriff’s of two counties, the District Attorney’s office of two counties, APS of two counties, the Elder Abuse Prevention at the Institute of Aging, the Dept of Social Services, Bureau of Medicare Fraud and Elder Abuse, the Calif Dept of Health Care Services, mom’s bank, mom’s doctors, various reporters who had written a story on elder abuse, and others. No one did anything other than contacting the perpetrator, who lied. I was told by one police officer that it was a “family matter” and in order to investigate elder abuse, I needed to provide proof. She would not even call the bank, or other concerned family members. My mom escaped her captivity several times, the first time going to a neighbor and telling them she had been kidnapped. The neighbors called the police who did… nothing, except contact my sister. It has now been over three years and I am still as angry at these people, organizations and agencies who are supposed to help as I was when I first contacted them. My sister went through over $400K of mom’s assets in a year, with no accounting or explanation. My mom died of a subdural hematoma in 2012, with no punishment or penalty. In fact, it worked so well, my sister is currently working as a caregiver for another senior.

    • http://www.olgathetravelingbra.blogspot.com Shawn McGinley Bradford

      that is horrible & I’m so sorry you & your mom had to endure such an awful ordeal & no one would help you! I’ve not had good experiences with the services who are supposed to protect us either. Hopefully karma will catch up with your sister very soon. I am currently dealing with someone who’s been emotionally & financially exploiting my 82 yr old dad…am planning on calling Adult Protective Services in the morning…wish me luck!

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team