The people's voice of reason

Are there any things to consider for my elderly parents in exploitation by criminals?

Criminals that would exploit the elderly are heartless subhumans. Elderly individuals that may be suffering mild dementia, are lonely, have trouble diserning nefarious schemes and have only sporadic support from family may be especially prone to exploitation. To make it worse they are now generally reliant on life savings, investments and social security to live. That could be a huge chunk of money that could be ripe for picking.

My own parents received a telephone call several years before their deaths in which my Mom answered the phone. The voice on the other end of the phone said, “hi Grandma”. My Mom responded by saying, “oh Mike (not his real name), I was thinking about you”. Now the exploiter knew the grandson’s name and how to address my Mom. He explained he had gone with friends on the spur of the moment to Spain and I have forgotten the details but it was something like his wallet was stolen or was arrested for something minor and was asking for money. My Mom told my Dad that “Mike” was on the phone and had whatever issue and needed money. My Dad was not heartless but I think he smelled a rat and told him sorry he couldn’t help and the telephone conversation ended. My Dad’s instinct was right but unfortunately this scheme has worked all too often. More recent schemes have involved higher tech criminals that have obtained voice samples and used those for more authentic sounding conversations.

Another scheme I am aware of are individuals that contact lonely older men or women. They may carry on the ruse for months and create a long distance relationship with these older people. The ruse makes the older individuals feel attractive and wanted again, but eventually a need for money from the exploiter comes and once the hook is set the need for money may continue for months while the lonely person waits for the exploiter to carry out some promise and/or pay back the money.

Of course another method is an individual who has been named as agent or attorney in fact under a power of attorney for an older person and ends up withdrawing money for their own use until the older person finds themselves with their one “trusted” support person gone with their money and they may be too embarressed or mentally/ emotionally frail to pursue the offender with criminal charges or civil action.

A case was settled two years ago, in United States v. Epsilon Data Management, LLC, where the DTC (Direct to Consumer) unit in Epsilon Data Management, LLC sold customer data having to do with millions of Americans to organizations involved with mail fraud. The data sold was over a nine year period ending in 2017 and much of it was targeted towards the elderly. The fraudsters sent materials mostly dealing with sweepstakes and astrology readings; anyone that responded would receive nothing of value. The sale of data continued to occur to fraudsters even when the DTC unit knew many organizations that they had sold data to had been arrested but continued selling the data anyway. In fact the number of Americans data compromised exceeded thirty million Americans. Those that sell data have a responsibility not to see such data to organizations that they know or have a reasonable suspicion that they will attempt to swindle those whose information is provided.

Apparently, the swindlers had significant success in their schemes. Postal inspectors have a duty to protect the public from such deception and were heavily involved in the prosecution of Epsilon and those that purchased the data.

Of the $150 million that Epsilon was ordered to pay for facilitating such fraud, $127.5 million of that was to reimburse those defrauded. Apparently, following the discovery, Epsilon was very compliant in correcting their failures as much as possible and putting practices in place to not be a part of such activity in the future.

I hope that this has helped with any questions about elder expoitation. If you need a lawyer you can contact the Alabama State Bar Lawyer Referral service or ask a trusted friend about a lawyer that they might recommend.

This article is informative only and not meant to be all inclusive. Additionally this article does not serve as legal advice to the reader and does not constitute an attorney- client relationship. The reader should seek counsel from their attorney should any questions exist.

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