April Harris Jackson

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Last week I provided a handy list of preventative measures to help you avoid financial scams. But what do you do about the tricky people in your life who want to take your money? Half of all abuse comes from someone the victim knows. This means friends, paid caregivers, and professionals you depend on. While I’m not advocating for you to be untrusting of those around you, I am telling you that it’s important to pay attention to the red flags. 

You should ask yourself: Is there anyone in my network that might want to take my money or anyone that “feels” that I owe them money? Here’s a list of the red flags to look out for:

A road sign that says "new friends ahead". Is a new friend a suspicious caregiver behavior?
Is your new friend really a friend?

Do I have new friends who are overly helpful?

Look out for the con artist. These tricksters will use coercion, flattery and manipulation. How can this happen to you? I’ll paint you a picture:

Let’s say you have recently met someone who is really interested in helping you around the house or with errands. Your new friend is charming and really interested in knowing you and being around you. Over time you start to trust this person and maybe even depend on them for your day-to-day activities. In the end, you do things you wouldn’t normally do such as gift-giving, especially after they tell you about all of the difficulties in their life. How nice of you to just “give” your low-mileage car to that nice new friend of yours! You think your new friend is being helpful. Nope! They are grooming you to take advantage of your kindness. 

Is anyone resentful or angry about helping me?

Pay attention to those who are resentful or angry about any requests to help out with caregiving. This is the type who feels that they are “owed” something for their efforts. This mentality leads to all kinds of abuse such as abandonment, starvation, denial of care, physical harm or threats to place you in a nursing home. Additionally, the abuser may steal your money, pay for things with your credit, take your valuables, or make you sign things you don’t agree with or understand.

Am I my caretaker’s golden goose?

There are people out there who are really down on their luck and are desperate enough to hold you hostage in exchange for caretaking. Unfortunately these caretakers see you as a golden goose and have no problem using caretaking on a quid pro quo basis.

Have you ever read the book “Misery”? The story is of a woman who discovers that her favorite author has crushed his leg in an accident. She “cares” for him but ultimately holds him hostage, afraid for his life, unless he writes a novel for her. This horror novel is an extreme example of an abuser who holds their victim hostage. While the story is far-fetched, it’s not usual for us to rely on our friends and families for certain things during different times of our lives.  An abusive caregiver could hold you hostage or tie their efforts to what you can do for them in ways that aren’t appropriate.  It’s clear to see how you can easily lose control of your finances in these circumstances.  

A business man holding a credit card with $100 dollar bills flying around him. Are your caretakers acting suspicious?
Beware the unethical professional who wants to work with you “exclusively”.

Do my hired professionals really have my interests at heart?

Beware professionals who are unethical. While most professionals will be honest with you, unfortunately we can’t say the same about everyone out there.  Some “sketchy” professionals will intentionally confuse older adults in order to take advantage of them. These professionals could be your banker, accountant, financial advisor,  doctor, or even lawyer (yes, we know the jokes too!). It could be anyone who has a professional relationship with you. These criminals are more than happy to help you line their pockets via forgery, lying, coercion, and misrepresentation.  

On the September 24, 2021 episode of the true crime podcast Criminal episode “Family Money,”  journalist Phoebe Judge investigates the case of two bankers who siphoned off millions of dollars from their grandmother after she entrusted them with her accounts. Because she trusted them and they also held a formal relationship as her bankers, they were able to move money out of her accounts and make investments that only benefited themselves- not her. This situation demonstrates how all three of our situations listed can work together, especially for people who you think would NEVER take advantage of you.  And for most people that’s the case. But it never hurts to have a second or third set of eyes on things if it seems like something might be amiss. 

A woman delivering groceries to an older adult woman. Not all caregivers are suspicious or have ill intentions.
Most people truly want to help. Trust your gut!

In conclusion

I know these are scary things to think about, and we generally don’t want to frighten our readers, but planning is important. And in this day and age, where so many scammers are out there not only online, but also those who may be coming into your home, it’s important to have a plan to protect yourself.  If you need help creating a plan to protect yourself or a loved one, click here to schedule a call with us.