The Netflix movie “I Care A Lot” provides insight on how to protect the elderly from being targeted by financial scammers.
The movie stars actress Rosamund Pike, who plays devious and conniving businesswoman Marla Grayson. She makes a living by convincing the legal system to grant her guardianship over seniors, and she pretends they cannot take care of themselves.
With this new legal power over her clients’ finances, Grayson drains their bank accounts and pockets any valuables for herself. Up against her quick-witted legal jargon, no one can come close to beating her in the courtroom, which keeps her schemes and business model intact and leaves older, vulnerable people susceptible to being swindled.
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Although the movie may seem to have a far-fetched premise, elder financial abuse is a very common crime in the U.S. This type of financial abuse cost seniors about $ 2.9 billion in 2019, according to various reports.
With those 50 years of age and older controlling some 70% of the nation’s wealth, the likelihood of these type of scheme will only increase. That makes baby boomers and older generations the perfect prey.
Seniors can be financially exploited through various scams such as identity theft, credit card misuse, email schemes, forged checks, stolen jewelry, etc. Oftentimes, perpetrators target elderly people with no relatives or close friends to check in on them. Isolation allows strangers to take advantage of the elderly more easily than others.
Unlike in the movie, most scammers are not strangers to their victims and tend to be family members or somebody they already know. It is extremely important to be prepared, as you continue to age, to avoid becoming a target.
So, how can prevent yourself (or a family or friend) from being a target of senior financial abuse?
- Create a plan to protect your assets and choose trustworthy beneficiaries.
- Put bank statements, checkbooks, and any other financial documents in a safe, secure place.
- Order your annual credit report to review.
- Never provide personal data over the phone (unless you called a trusted company number first).
- Get a second opinion before signing any documents that you don’t understand.
- Stay connected with family members through texts, phone calls or FaceTime.
Here are some warning signs that a family member may have fallen prey to senior financial abuse:
- Lack of awareness or confusion, leading to poor decision making.
- Uncharacteristic activity in your family member’s bank accounts or unusual ATM withdrawals.
- Unusual changes to wills or trusts.
- New “friendships” where they may be being taken advantage of.
If you become a victim of elder financial abuse, reach out to a trustworthy and supportive friend or family member to act as your advocate. Meet with a vetted professional (e.g., attorney, banker or doctor) to review your options on how to best approach the situation, or contact Adult Protective Services and/or local police for assistance.
The movie actually serves as a reminder to ensure that our loved ones and their life savings remain safe. It demonstrates how vital it is for us to keep a close eye on our loved ones and, for financial professionals, clients who need our support more than ever.
— By Stacy Francis, president and CEO of Francis Financial