Scam Alert: How To Avoid Caregiver Financial Abuse
Courtesy Forbes.com Story By John Wasik; Forbes Contributor
As someone managing care for an elderly relative, I can tell you that there are so many opportunities for scams. I have to keep my eyes open all the time. The summer is a good time to check for problems.
First, there was the window salesman who wanted to sell $10,000 worth of windows. Then there was the stockbroker who sold scam mutual funds. There was also a woman who wanted to “move in” and provide care. It’s been one thing after another.
Predators are targeting seniors every day, because older people are often isolated, exceedingly trusting, love company and willing to part with their money.
When caregivers are involved in daily care, there are often problems, particularly when it comes to money. Family members have fleeced elderly relatives. Independent caregivers have also engaged in financial abuse, often using the excuse that they are “owed” money while providing challenging care. They may even spot or try to prevent abusive situations.
Providing in-home care has become even more difficult since there is no social safety net that provides financial assistance. Medicare doesn’t cover most long-term care and you need to be fairly impoverished to qualify for Medicaid. Most in-home care is paid for out of pocket or provided by family members.
Yet caregivers see myriad problems when an elder can no longer manage their finances. Some of it is unvarnished abuse, most of which is unreported.
According to a study by Allianz Life, an insurance company:
– Caregivers spend more than $7,000 per year and provide more than 10 hours per week in noncash support for their elder – this is when no financial abuse occurs.
– If their elder was financially abused, the average cost to caregivers was $36,000 as they try to help them recover their losses.
– The average caregiver spends more than $8,400 each year in cash and non-cash support when caring for past victims (56% higher than those caring for elders with no history of financial abuse).
Most of the abuse I’ve seen comes when relatives or caregivers obtain access to elders’ funds. They may become signatories on checking or savings accounts or obtain powers of (financial) attorney. These are always red flags.
How do you safeguard an elder from financial abuse? Here are some steps I’ve found to be useful:
– When drafting financial powers of attorney, which give others the ability to make financial decision in the event of mental or physical incapacity, it should be a family affair. There should be some oversight over those gaining the power of attorney by other family members.
– Expenses for the elder should be openly discussed between caregivers and other family members. How much does institutional care cost? Does the elder have resources to pay for it? What about the in-home care?
– Always plan ahead. Everyone should have an estate plan that includes powers of attorney. These documents should be prepared when an elder is well.
– Always avoid cash transactions. Everything should have a paper trail — from a home health care agency to out-of-pocket bills. No one should be paid cash “under the table.”
For more on elder financial abuse, click here and here.
G R A F F I T I
M.O.S.T. does not care about persons who paint graffiti on a sanctioned wall with the owner's permission. However, we detest cowards who paint property without consent. That changes the classification from art to vandalism. However, the vandals will still try to justify what they do by claiming it's free expression. They often try to vilify those who oppose them by labeling them oppressors of that free expression. Meanwhile, those same vandals cause hundreds of dollars in damage, drive a businesses customers away and lower property values.
We often ask if a graffiti goon would still call it "art" if it was their property being defaced without permission.
Graffiti can also have a more serious meaning due to being gang related. Gangs can use graffiti to mark territory, advertise drug sales, mourn deceased members, announce alliances and issue threats. All the more reason to report and remove it immediately.
If you see tagging in progress dial 9 1 1
For recent graffiti in Orlando report it to (407) 254-GRAF (4723) or click HERE
Online Scammers Require Payment Via Music Application Gift Cards
Complaints filed with Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) from 2017 show online scammers are asking victims to pay fraudulent fees using music application gift cards as part of multiple fraud schemes. These schemes include auction frauds, employment/opportunity scams, grandparent scams, loan frauds, romance scams, ransomware, tax frauds, and various other online schemes.
In this scam involving music application gift cards, the perpetrator directs the victim to a specific retailer to obtain music application gift cards of varying amounts. Once the victim has purchased the gift cards, the perpetrator directs the victim to reveal the numbers on the back of the cards and provide them to the perpetrator via telephone, email, text, or a designated website. Once the perpetrator obtains the music application gift card data, the perpetrator either continues to request additional funds through more gift card purchases or ceases all communication with the victim.
The financial impact to victims can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. IC3 victim complaint data from January through June 2017 involving music application gift cards indicate that these scams have impacted hundreds of victims with reported losses exceeding $6 million.
This scam is also associated with other fraud scams involving victims having won a prize, needing to pay a tax debt, having qualified for a loan, or that a friend or relative is in trouble and needs a payment via music application or other prepaid gift card to assist.
General Online Protection Tips
Recognize the attempt to perpetrate a scam and cease all communication with the perpetrator.
Research the subject’s contact information online (e.g., email address, phone number); other individuals have likely posted about the scam online.
Resist the pressure to act quickly. The perpetrator creates a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure the victim into immediate action.
Never give unknown or unverified persons any personally identifiable information (PII).
Ensure all computer antivirus and security software and malware protection are up to date.
If you receive a pop-up or locked screen, shut down the affected device immediately.
Should a perpetrator gain access to a device or an account, take precautions to protect your identity. Immediately contact your financial institution(s) to place protection on your account(s), and monitor your account(s) and personal information for suspicious activity.
Always use antivirus software and a firewall. It is important to obtain and use antivirus software and firewalls from reputable companies. It is also important to maintain both of these through automatic update settings.
Enable pop-up blockers. Pop-ups are regularly used by perpetrators of online scams to spread malicious software. To avoid accidental clicks on or within the pop-up, it is best to try to prevent them in the first place.
Be skeptical. Do not click on any emails or attachments you do not recognize, and avoid suspicious websites.
If you receive a pop-up or message alerting you to an infection, immediately disconnect from the Internet to avoid any additional infections or data loss. Alert your local FBI field office and file a complaint at www.ic3.gov.
Filing a Complaint
Individuals who believe they may be a victim of an online scam (regardless of dollar amount) can file a complaint with the IC3 at www.ic3.gov.
In reporting online scams, be as descriptive as possible in the complaint by including:
Name of the subject and company.
Email addresses and phone numbers used by the subject.
Web sites used by the subject company.
Account names and numbers, and financial institutions that received any funds (e.g., wire transfers, prepaid card payments).
Description of interaction with the subject.
Complainants are also encouraged to keep original documentation, emails, faxes, and logs of all communications. To view previously released PSAs and scam alerts, visit the IC3 Press Room at www.ic3.gov/media/default.aspx.