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Note to Advisors: Caution Your Aging Clients About Scams

When your aging client has contact with you, consider it an opportunity to educate them about more than the status of their portfolio you manage. Your client’s efforts to maintain financial safety can be thwarted by clever scammers who are constantly devising new ways to take advantage of them. You are in a perfect position to help keep them informed about financial abuse and the latest information on tactics scammers use. Don’t make it someone else’s problem. Make it part of your services.

Take for example the “grandma I need help” scam. My 92 year old mother in law told me about this one. Someone actually had the nerve to try it with her, but she’s smarter than they were and it didn’t work. However, one of her friends did fall into the trap. Somehow the scammers got a list of phone numbers of many of the seniors living in the nicely appointed neighborhood in her retirement community. They get a young man to call from their list of numbers and say “Grandma?” when a woman answers. If she thinks it’s her grandson, she’s bait. The thief then says he’s in trouble, with some made-up some story to get her to worry about him. He then asks her to wire money right away to get him out of this jam. The unsuspecting do it. And get taken.

A newer scam is the gift basket trick. Again, the older person’s phone number and address are known to the thieves. They call the potential victim to be sure he’s home and then tell him they’re Express Courier or any other name and they have a gift delivery. Will he be home in the next hour? If the victim says “yes, I’ll be here” an official looking truck with a courier name on it pulls up within the hour, and the delivery man hands the victim a lovely basket of wine and flowers. The trap is in the delivery man then asking the victim for payment for a “delivery fee’’ because the basket has alcohol and had to be hand delivered to an adult rather than left on the doorstep. Or so they say. The fake courier insists on a credit card payment rather than cash, even if the fee is just $3.50. He uses a small portable credit card scanner and asks for the PIN number for any debit card. What the victim does not know is that the scanner is a device used to steal the credit card information, in the way this kind of information has been stolen from ATMs and gas station credit card machines in the past. The scanner the courier uses even prints out a nice little receipt, making it all the more believable.

The victim doesn’t realize his credit card information has been used to make a dummy credit card with his name on it, which the thieves quickly use until the victim cancels the card. Thousands of dollars can be stolen from the victim’s by ATM cash withdrawals and numerous purchases before the victim knows what is going on. People are getting tricked by this. The scam is working for the scammers and you know they will keep doing it until the public gets well informed enough to decline the offer of the fake gift delivery over the phone.

If you are managing accounts for older clients, take the opportunity to help educate them about these nasty fraudsters who are easily able to get their names and phone numbers. You can make a difference. Tell them in person or make a handout about scams to email or send to them. They may see you as protective of their financial safety in more ways than one. That can uplift your image, always a good thing. We’ll keep you informed about elder abuse and how to protect your aging clients right here at AgingInvestor.com .