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Is your elderly relative being swindled? What to watch for

Amid stories about senior citizens being swindled -- including one today involving a 91-year-old widow, and one three months ago involving an 84-year-old widow who was convinced to marry the swindler in a ceremony in the front seat of his car -- a financial protection outfit today released 15 "red flags" that family members should be poised to spot.

The list below comes from the Identity Theft Assistance Center (ITAC).

From the ITAC's list of red flags:

  • Vulnerable adult has no knowledge of a newly-issued ATM, debit or credit card.
  • Discovery of a vulnerable adult's signature being forged for financial transactions or for the titles of his or her possessions.
  • A set of "out-of-sync" check numbers.
  • A sudden flurry of "bounced" checks and overdraft fees.
  • Transaction review shows multiple small dollar checks posting to the senior's account in the same month. This could indicate telemarketing or charity scams.
  • Large withdrawals from a previously inactive account or a new joint account.
  • Abrupt increases in credit or debit card activity.
  • Sudden appearance of credit card balances or ATM/debit card purchases or withdrawals with no prior history.
  • Withdrawals or purchases using ATM or debit cards that are: Repetitive over a short period of time; inconsistent with prior use patterns.
  • Vulnerable adult appears confused about the account balance or transactions on his or her account.
  • A caregiver appears to be getting paid too much or too often.
  • Significant increases in monthly expenses paid.
  • Sudden changes in accounts or practices, such as unexplained withdrawals of large sums of money, particularly with a vulnerable adult who is escorted by a caregiver, family member or "friend."
  • Vulnerable adult acknowledges providing personal and account information to a solicitor via the phone or email.
  • Excitement about winning a sweepstakes or lottery.

ITAC acknowledges that consumers over 65 are least likely to become victims of identity theft. Still, the organization claims, it may be underreported, particularly if it is done with consident or by a friend, family member or acquaintance.

"We see heart wrenching cases where older people are victimized by a con artist or a family member or friend and the anguish that follows," ITAC President Anne Wallace says.

ITAC says it took the bulleted items above from a report by the Financial Services Roundtable.

-- Dan Morse

By Dan Morse  |  May 25, 2010; 1:01 PM ET
Categories:  Cons & Scams , Dan Morse , Financial Crimes , Montgomery  
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These situations are so sad because in most cases the person being taken advantage of honestly needs help.
Having been in financial services for many years I've seen exponentially more exploitation by adult children and relatives than a strangers.
Everyone should encourage elderly relatives/parents/acquaintances to get power of attorney, advance medical directives and wills completed while they are still "with it". But be sure those who are to be acting on that person's behalf is trustworthy.

Posted by: BigDaddy651 | May 25, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

These situations are heartbreaking because the victims are so vulnerable.
Everyone should encourage elderly parents/relatives/acquaintance to complete power of attorney, advance medical directives and wills while they're still lucid.
But be sure whomever will have fiduciary responsibility is trustworthy. Over my last 25 years in financial services I've witnessed exponentially more exploitation by relatives than strangers.

Posted by: BigDaddy651 | May 25, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

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