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SENIOR ADVOCATE

By Liza Horvath

 

Homeless Seniors

 

Imagine if you will, a crowd gathering around the Salvation Army food truck as it pulls into the lot. As you pass by you observe the group and make assumptions: they are homeless vagrants or possibly addicts that have surrendered to the drug or alcohol dependence which has (finally) succeeded in bringing them to their knees. Some may be uneducated illiterates that simply never learned to make it in a society that – if you know how to play it – will provide you with a fortune. As you look more closely you notice that some in the group are quite elderly – no, most are elderly and, to your horror, one of these disheveled, lost-looking souls hunkered down in the breadline is your mother.

No, this is not your personal nightmare and, while the previous paragraph is a made up scenario, in looking to the not too distant future – it could very well become real for many of us. The question is, you baby boomer, where is your mother or father at this moment? Used to be that we needed to worry about our children and their whereabouts, but we better begin to focus concern and attention on our parents and perhaps our siblings, as well. A rapacious, marauding predator is taking hold in America and it is growing stronger, smarter, meaner and more aggressive each passing minute. The primary target of this destroyer is our senior population and it threatens to ruin our parents, siblings and friends. If left unchecked it will take everything they have earned and saved throughout a lifetime and dump them – homeless and destitute into the mean streets. Can you – in your worst nightmare – imagine being left homeless and living on the streets at age 80?

You wonder if this is hyperbole – “My mother – in a breadline at age 80…never happen.” I would caution you not to be smug – this could happen and it is, in fact, happening now. Maybe your mother or brother is not a current victim, but they – along with you and I – are likely in the sights of the predator at this very moment.

An unverified report from Adult Protective Services states that 55 percent of the cases they are currently working involve a senior who is being scammed either on-line, by telephone or by mail. When our parents, siblings or friends reach a certain point in life they become susceptible to being taken advantage of and I would submit that the point they become vulnerable is long before we suspect. It is easy to see that when Aunt Ruth’s popular strawberry jam shows up and, upon opening the jar we find she has canned ground beef instead of berries, maybe Auntie is slipping a bit and could need some help. The problem is, however, that a parent, friend, client can become a victim and still appear to be completely “fine” mentally – it is happening all the time.

Scammers have become so skilled that they “tap” phone lines so each time a senior picks up their phone to call someone the scammer can listen in and gather data. They reroute calls and imitate credit card companies, your bank, your telephone company – I made such a call and was connected to a fake “phone company” where the actual music used by the legitimate company played while I was on hold. Letters demanding the payment of tax arrive by mail on the exact letterhead used by the taxing agencies we most fear. The letter is followed by a threatening phone call from an “agent” of the taxing authority demanding payment and threatening legal action.

The scammers are sophisticated and we must become vigilant in our protection of our parents, friends and siblings – and ourselves. Learn more about the methods used and be careful yourself – the streets are no place to live at any age.

Liza Horvath has over 30 years experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. If you have a questions call (831)646-5262 or email liza@montereytrust.com

 


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