How to Recognize a Scam from a Family Member

Scams are an unfortunate reality of the world we live in today, and they’re more common than you might think. Sadly, they sometimes even come in the form of a trusted friend or family member. And in cases where the scammers are strangers, they often come in the guise of a relative or friend. (You might be thinking of the ACN scam, but that one was misunderstood as a pyramid scheme.) According to a study by MetLife, it’s estimated that roughly one million elderly Americans lose about $2.6 billion every year as a result of elder financial abuse.

Exploitation from Family Members

In fact, in the case of elder financial abuse specifically, it is more likely to be committed by family members or caregivers than by random strangers. Kids are often the culprit because parents feel responsible for their well-being, even when they’re adults.

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The poor state of our economy has many adult children relying on their elderly parents for financial help. Sometimes they use guilt or fear to manipulate, other times it’s sweet talk and flattery, but in either case – it is financial abuse. And when this manipulation crosses the line of legality, the crimes often go unreported because the victims feel too ashamed to tell others.

“At least 1 in 10 elders is exploited. It’s become so rampant, it’s an epidemic situation,” says Jenefer Duane, the founder of the Elder Financial Protection Network, a nonprofit that seeks to stop financial abuse before it happens by raising awareness and forming partnerships.

What a Typical Victim Looks Like

The most common victim is a white woman between the ages of 70 and 89, who is isolated from society and suffers from cognitive impairments such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. In the same MetLife study cited above, 55% of financial abuse happens at the hands of loved ones – relatives, caregivers, and trusted friends – and it can take many forms, from relocating assets without the victim’s knowledge to forgery or theft.

If any of these classic victim profiles applies to you, you could be suffering from financial abuse:

  • Your partner or spouse runs up your water or electric bills, or does something else to damage your credit. They also convince you to purchase things they want, even if you are opposed.
  • You have a loved one who helps himself to your money by feeding you sob stories about unemployment or divorce, which make you feel guilty and obligated.
  • You have relatives who constantly “borrow” money and then “forget” to pay you back.

If you recognize yourself in any of these situations, you need to tell someone, whether it’s the police or an another source of help such as Eldercare Locator, which is run by the U.S.Department of Health and Human Services and links you to local support services.

Above all, remember that it is your right to say no when someone asks for money, no matter who they are. You should never have to put up with financial manipulation by anyone.

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