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By Liza Horvath


Lies and Exploitation


When Don received a call from the pleasant sounding young man he was initially cautious. Surely this caller was looking to sell something to gain from chatting up this “old guy” as Don referred to himself. Soon enough, the caller pitched enhanced television cable service and, when Don declined, the caller said, “Sure, I understand, but I’ve enjoyed our conversation. Can I call you again?’ Don was noncommittal in his answer, hung up and assumed he would not hear from the caller again.


A few hours later, the young man called again and cheerfully engaged Don in a lengthy conversation. The caller seemed truly interested in Don and his life story. Over a few telephone phone calls, the stranger became Don’s “friend” and, because Don was alone much of the time, he understandably began to look forward to lively dialogue with the charming caller. This new friend told Don about his own family, young children and personal goals. One day, the friend shared his concern about an accident he had been involved in and his worries that, unless he could get his car repaired, he and his family would be forced to move from the area – and their “friendship” – may have to end. While it was only $200 that Don sent to the new friend - this became the first of many “payments” Don made to the caller over a period of years.

U.S. Regulators recently released a guide intended to assist law enforcement and financial professionals in educating seniors on scams and how to avoid them. The publication covers topics like financial exploitation, identity theft and medical identity theft and can be obtained at www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/moneysmart/OlderAdult.html. The publication provides good information but seniors can fall prey to certain scams that are almost impossible to detect or in which the senior willingly participates.  


In Don’s case when concerned friends warned him that this new friend was most likely a scammer, Don simply said, “It is my money. I can spend it as I wish.”  Don is correct. Further, Don most likely knows that this person is taking advantage of him but Don enjoys the conversations, does not want them to end and so he continues to send money. He is a willing participant.

Another older adult, Ann, is not so willing. Ann’s elderly mother was hospitalized for several days and, while mom made a full recovery, the hospital charges were considerable. When Ann’s mother could not pay, Ann was contacted by the hospital requesting payment. Ann refused – stating the bill was not her responsibility. Soon the hospital’s lawyer called and informed Ann that it was “her legal duty” to pay the bill for her mother and implied that they would begin collections. The lawyer was either misinformed or was intentionally misleading. Except in certain and limited circumstances, no one is legally responsible for the medical bills of another. Ann had her attorney inform the hospital and the lawyer that Ann was not responsible and warned them not to call again.

Seniors - get informed, ask questions and get advice when you are in doubt. Lies and exploitation can come from any direction.       


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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