Hello again. Carolyn and Mikol here.
We hope all of you are starting your New Year out well.
We are working on our own health, bike riding and jogging in the unusually mild months we’re experiencing.
We’ve been seeing many issues lately around the competency of elders and their money. Here’s a true story about a ripoff of a 90 year old that was quite shocking.
It involves George, who is generally doing well, but has a few memory problems. His wife, Gloria worries about him. He has a full time caregiver from a qualified agency. He goes to the gym every day. The caregiver drives him there and to the bank, to his errands and to lunch. He keeps cash on hand for his own use.
The last time George went to the bank, Gloria wanted to know what had happened to the $300 he withdrew. He couldn’t find it. The next time, he said he had put $1000 in his “secret stash” drawer in his dresser. It was empty.
He withdrew another $1000. This time, $300 of it was missing almost immediately. Gloria thought George had just misplaced it.
Then Gloria got a call from her credit card company. Someone had tried to charge $15,000 worth of merchandise. Because it was unusual, the amount triggered the call. She had enough sense to cancel the credit card. She didn’t have enough sense to see what was getting very plain.
The caregiver was stealing from them.
When I got the call about this case, I was more than a little frustrated. Gloria felt sorry for the thief. The caregiver’s husband had walked out on her. She was struggling with money, the caregiver had been telling them. Gloria didn’t want to call the police, because she “didn’t have the heart”.
I gave Gloria a heads-up. This thief is gaming you. The “poor me” story is a trick to get your sympathy and it’s working. You must immediately change the bank accounts, cancel any credit cards to which the caregiver could have had access and change all passwords in your electronic banking. And, you must call the police before the caregiver steals from anyone else. There needs to be a public record of this.
“There’s no way to really prove it” Gloria says. Not so, Gloria. Ever hear of circumstantial evidence? No one else had access and there was no one else in the house who could have taken the money, I told her.
The caregiver was fired immediately. Good. At least we can stop further damage from lifting cash. However, the prospect of identify theft and using other credit card numbers remains a risk. That risk can continue for many months, even years.
Gloria is very hesitant to take it upon herself to stop George from handling cash any longer. He has always done his own banking. He has always handled his money apart from hers. It would be a major change. But, I advised, it’s time. Gloria needs support and encouragement to help George accept that it’s time for her to take over the responsibility for all the finances.
The fact that George didn’t know cash was missing was a red flag that Gloria missed. It is fortunate that greater losses did not occur before she figured it out. We don’t yet know who might have gotten George’s credit card numbers, bank account numbers, Social Security number, or other identifying information which would allow greater theft to happen. Someone already had one credit card number and tried to use it.
The takeaway from this true and sad story is that we all need to keep a close watch on a 90 year old with memory problems.
Caregivers might be thieves to start with, or they might be in situations when financial pressure mounts and the temptation to steal from a vulnerable client is just too much. No stranger coming into a private home with an elder should be completely trusted with money, valuables and private information. No matter how good the employer agency or the background check, things happen and people can change when their financial situations worsen.
When we have an aging loved one who is doing pretty well, we might miss the red flags. We want to notice the good. We can overlook the dangerous part of memory problems.
How about your family? Any vulnerable elders among you? You can be the one to be on the alert for your loved one’s financial safety. If you’re not sure and you have suspicions, contact us for a complimentary strategy session, www.agingstrategysession.com. We’ll help you figure out if you need to do something about it.
Meanwhile, we wish all of you the best.
Until next time,
Carolyn Rosenblatt and Mikol Davis
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