Article 15-Estate Planning Series: Why You Are More at Risk of a Scam Than You Think

Written by Wright Law on . Posted in Estate Planning, Trusts

Scams have become a serious threat for senior citizens.  Almost one third of successful scams make senior citizens the victim, even though seniors represent only 12% of the population. This is part of the reason the National Council on Aging calls fraud against seniors the “Crime of the 21st Century.”

According to the FBI, there are several reasons for this: 

  • Seniors are the most likely to have a “nest egg.”
  • Seniors are from the “polite and trusting” generation.
  • Seniors are less likely to report fraud.
  • Seniors do not make good witnesses, and
  • Seniors are more susceptible to products promising renewed health, etc.

Unfortunately, the bad guys know this as well.

These scams often focus on seniors who are single, but not always.  In addition to offering counterfeit anti-aging products, scammers will attempt to swindle money based on schemes related to health insurance, investments and prescription drugs.  The anonymity of the internet provides abundant opportunities to take advantage of those seeking solutions “too good to be true.” But aggressive telemarketers and door to door salesmen are also significant risks.

So what can be done to avoid this disturbing threat?  No estate plan, including a trust, can adequately substitute for diligence.  But it is not realistic for family members (i.e. children) to monitor every transaction of an aging parent – dealing with increasing vulnerabilities -- who wishes to live independently.

One solution is to focus on protecting the greatest risks.  Albeit unfortunate, being bullied into a purchasing a magazine subscription is not as dangerous as the scammer who convinces a victim to turn over significant amounts of money.  Accounts placed in a properly drafted trust can be protected by including a second, trusted trustee to work with the owner of the account. 

With a second person assisting as a trustee, and the requirement that trustees must act together when dealing with significant assets, the property owner cannot be bullied – or fooled – into turning over those assets.  A reliable co-trustee can help ensure the proposal is legitimate – and actually wanted.  For assets of significant enough size, this process can provide peace of mind to both the senior citizen and his/her loved ones. 

 © 2015 Steven J Wright  

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