Happy Holidays 2023, Now Is The Time, Wade's Words

Our parents are using their phones and tablets regularly. Generally speaking, this is great. It is not so great when they unwittingly fall victim to online scams. Many internet sources cover this issue well. I mention scamming seniors here because I see it in my Elder Law practice. Interestingly, there are some common themes in my cases. Beware of the Grinch!


One such theme is that the senior involved is suffering from early-stage dementia. The family does not realize that their loved one has dementia before the trouble begins. Although in hindsight there were signs. 


Another theme is that the senior is surfing the web or texting. Then up pops the phishing lure. It looks legitimate. They click on it and Pandora’s box opens. Inside, there is always a person with a convincing story that they are the victim of abuse or are in danger of some sort. They live overseas, often in Nigeria. “Send money to help me,” they plead.


The scammer works hard to establish an emotional relationship with the senior. Then the senior works even harder to come to the rescue. They wire money to an account, send cashier’s checks, or buy expensive gift cards and mail them. Once the money begins to flow, the scammer ups the emotional pressure for more money. If the money doesn’t come fast enough, the scammer may call the senior’s cell phone or even show up at the house.


In my cases, these scams brought in tens of thousands of dollars. They are hard for families to discover. One reason is that the senior is ashamed and doesn’t feel like they can ask for help. In two instances, a third party reached out to a family member because something didn’t seem right. The senior sending gift cards was reported by the cashier of the local pharmacy where the senior always purchased the cards. In another case, the financial advisor finally called the client’s wife after her husband had nearly depleted his $900,000 IRA.


The holiday season is one of online scams. The lesson here is that adult children should remain vigilant for clues. Talk to your parents about what links NOT to click on. Teach them how legitimate financial institutions communicate with customers. Get an agreement that they will not engage with others where contact is initiated online. Help them foil The Scam That Stole Christmas!