Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Elder Fraud Charges Brought

MP900202201[1]Federal law enforcement officials have announced actions against hundreds of scammers accused of defrauding the elderly.

One of the worst aspects of elder fraud is that it often seems like there is very little that can be done about the fraud. After a scammer has taken advantage of an elderly person, it is difficult for the elderly person to recover any lost money. Local law enforcement and elder law attorneys are sympathetic, but they are often unable to help very much.

This might lead some people to think there is little reason to even bother reporting minor incidents of elder fraud. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the recent FBI announcement explains. It is titled "Law Enforcement Action Aimed at Those Who Victimize Senior Citizens."

Federal law enforcement officials working with other agencies have announced massive actions taken against the perpetrators of elderly fraud. In fact, 250 people have been charged.

It is believed that those charged were responsible for victimizing 1 million elderly persons at a cost of approximately $600 million. This action comes on top of 200 cases filed against individuals for elder fraud issues last year.

It is important to report fraud against the elderly. Each report helps federal authorities develop these big cases that will eventually put the scammers out of business.

Reference: FBI (Feb. 22, 2018) "Law Enforcement Action Aimed at Those Who Victimize Senior Citizens."


Common Elder Scams

MP900387640Some scams against the elderly are well-known.  Nevertheless, they continue to work.

People who seek to scam the elderly out of money are not always very subtle about it. Not every scammer is patient enough to slowly get to know an elderly person and then con them out of their money. Some scams used against the elderly are demanding.

A common one is for an unknown person to call a grandparent and tell him or her that a grandchild is in trouble and needs cash wired immediately. The trouble normally consists of a problem with the police, where bail money is needed.

Another common scam the Minneapolis Star Tribune points out in "As senior population grows, so do scams targeting their money," is for a voice message to be left on an elderly person's phone claiming to be from the IRS. The elderly person is instructed to call a number right away for their last chance to settle a problem with the IRS by sending money.

Those schemes might seem like obvious scams to most people, but they continue to work on many of the elderly. The scammers seek to take advantage of the elderly person's diminished capacity and by demanding the money right away, the victim does not have the time to think through the request or ask anyone else about.

These and other scams against the elderly are unfortunately increasing. Elderly people should be aware of them and never agree to send money over the phone to someone, until they discuss the matter with someone else.

Reference: Minneapolis Star Tribune (Feb. 16, 2018) "As senior population grows, so do scams targeting their money."


Dealing with Scams

Bigstock-Elder-Couple-With-Bills-3557267[1]Scams conducted against the elderly are far too frequent and difficult to prevent. However, there are some steps you can take if you or an elderly loved one has been scammed.

Along with the growth of America's elderly population, has come a less welcome population growth.

The number of scammers.

This unwelcome “population” has increased, as unscrupulous people seek to make easy money by duping the elderly.

There are many types of scams that target the elderly, ranging from large ones meant to make millions to very small scams meant to cheat an elderly person out of a few hundred dollars.

The smaller ones can be very difficult to prevent because they often consist of someone calling the elderly and pretending to be someone else, such as a charity or a debt collector.

These callers lie and sweet talk their way into getting the elderly victim's bank or credit card information.

If you know someone who has been a victim of such a scam recently, there are some things that you can do as My San Antonio discusses in "How to handle a scam against elderly parent."

The first thing that needs to be done is to contact the financial institution and make sure it is aware of the scam.

The institution can even block the transaction, if it is not too late.

The local police should be called as well to make sure the crime is reported.

It is also a good idea to contact an elder law attorney to ask for legal advice, if needed to get any money back.

When the elderly are scammed, it is not always possible to get their money back.  However, by making a few phones calls, you can make it more likely.

Reference: My San Antonio (Jan. 12, 2018) "How to handle a scam against elderly parent."


Mary Kills People

Bigstock-Doctor-with-female-patient-21258332[2]If you have ever wanted to watch a television drama about physician-assisted suicide, you now have your chance.

A normal television show about a brilliant emergency room doctor who kills people in her off hours, would probably be a very dark drama about a serial killer, if there was such a show at all.

Normally, doctors are treated on television as nothing but heroic and rarely involved in anything too controversial. However, a drama from Canada now airing in the U.S., seeks to tell a different story.

In this show, the brilliant doctor is killing people who wish to pass away. She moonlights by performing euthanasia, also known as physician-assisted suicide.

The New York Times recently reviewed the show in "Review: 'Mary Kills People,' but It's for a Good Reason."

While the Times review is somewhat mixed, that this show exists at all highlights the changing attitudes about euthanasia.

It was only a couple of decades ago when Dr. Kevorkian was seen as the evil "Doctor Death." Now, many people are taking the idea of physician-assisted suicide seriously.

A few states have recently legalized the practice and many more are considering it as part of the dying with dignity movement, which seeks to allow terminally ill people the choice of when they want to pass away and under what circumstances.

The concept, however, is still controversial since not everyone agrees it is a good idea.

This new television show is certain to draw more attention to the concept and get people talking about it even more.

Reference: New York Times (April 21, 2017) "Review: 'Mary Kills People,' but It's for a Good Reason."


Data Collection and Elder Abuse

Tracking what people do online is intended to increase the value of advertising, but it has the potential to be used to worsen the elder abuse problem.

Regardless of whether you are aware of it, some computer somewhere knows you are currently reading this article. This is most likely true, even if you did not give explicit permission for the computer to know.

Everything you do online is potentially tracked and collected by computers that compile a profile of you. It is what is known as big data.

No, this is not the result of the government spying on people. The people behind this data collection are people who want to sell you things. The better profile they can compile of who you are and what you like, the better they can create advertisements that cater to your interests and that are more likely to make you want to buy something.

This data knowledge increases the value of the ad space on the Internet and makes more money for companies selling that space, such as Facebook and Google. In other words, most people find this data collection and tracking to be mostly benign and necessary for popular Internet sites to continue to be free to use.

However, there are potential downsides to the data collection that worry elder law experts, as Financial Advisor explains in "AI, Big Data May Become Tools for Elder Financial Abuse."

In the wrong hands, this same data could be used to more effectively target elderly people for financial scams. That has elder law advocates worried, since elder financial abuse is already a big problem.

There are currently few rules about to whom marketers can sell their data. That might need to change to protect the elderly and others from abuse.

Reference: Financial Advisor (March 22, 2017) "AI, Big Data May Become Tools for Elder Financial Abuse."


Family Squabbles Can Hurt Elderly Parents

Bigstock-Senior-Couple-8161132[1]When an elderly parent is approaching the end of life, the ability of the family to come together and agree on treatment and care is vital to ease the parent's suffering.

The last thing that most end of life patients want to deal with, is a family feud over the patient’s medical treatment and care. However, these family feuds are a common occurrence, especially when family members have other, pre-existing disagreements.

This was the subject of a recent article in the Washington Post titled "A united family can make all the difference when someone is dying."

Doctors have a name for one of the common problems that can arise. They call it the "Daughter from California syndrome." This can happen when family members compete with each other over who cares for the elderly patient the most. Often, someone who lives far away goes too far and is the source of disruptions.

Another source of problems for families is when the person who the patient put in charge of things goes too far and refuses to cooperate with others. For example, someone given authority in a health care power of attorney may refuse to listen to the opinions of other family members. This can create unnecessary tension, especially when decisions have to be made that are outside the scope of any advanced directives.

The best thing that a family can do to help an elderly patient at the end of life is to work together, communicate freely and come to consensus decisions concerning treatment and care. The patient can help this greatly, if he or she has previously executed detailed advanced directives that designate appropriate people to be in charge.

Reference: Washington Post (Nov. 20, 2016) "A united family can make all the difference when someone is dying."


Do Not Bury Dad in the Yard

MP900382652[1]Two women in Florida have confessed that they improperly disposed of their father's body five years ago.

Fairly or not, the state of Florida has a reputation for weird news. One of the latest stories to come out of the state is not going to do this reputation any good.

The details are sparse, but two women have confessed to authorities that they buried their 94-year-old father in his yard five years ago. The man had previously been reported missing by his brother.

Law enforcement discovered the body after receiving a tip that body was buried at the house. The sisters claim they found their father dead in the house, panicked and buried him according to FOX News in "Officials: Daughters confess to burying father, 94, in yard."

The sisters have been referred to the state's attorney general's office for investigation of possible crimes of which there could be several, such as improperly disposing of human remains.

Various financial crimes are also a possibility if they used their father's bank accounts or if he was receiving Social Security benefits they used.

It is not clear why the sisters panicked and did not call authorities when they discovered their father had passed away, but it obviously raises suspicion.

Needless to say, if you find a family member has passed away, do not bury the body. Call authorities. Not doing so is against the law and could almost be considered elder abuse.

Reference: FOX News (Oct.21, 2016) "Officials: Daughters confess to burying father, 94, in yard."


Using Social Media to Abuse the Elderly

MP900202201[1]A federal agency is cracking down on a disturbing new form of elder abuse: nursing home workers using social media to share degrading pictures and videos of nursing home patients.

Now that most people have smart phones, most people also have cameras with them at all times. Many people like to use those cameras to take embarrassing photos of others in public and post those pictures on social media accounts. It is a common enough practice that entire websites are dedicated to collecting the photographs for other people to laugh at.

When the picture was taken in public there is normally very little that can be done about it. However, it does not just happen in public. It also happens in nursing homes and the pictures are taken by nursing home employees.

That is elder abuse as WTSP reports in “Feds crack down on degrading nursing home patient pics.”

This abuse happens often enough that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has decided that action is needed. It has warned state agencies to check that nursing homes in their states have a policy on employee cell phone use that prohibits employees from taking demeaning or degrading pictures of patients in their facilities.

While a policy in and of itself cannot stop all instances of elder abuse, this is a good and necessary step.

Nursing home residents and their families should not be abused by those they entrust with their care. If you (or a loved one) is ever the victim of elder abuse in a nursing home, please call an elder law attorney for assistance and report the nursing home to the appropriate agency in your state. Profit Law Firm can help victims of elder abuse in Maryland or DC.

Reference: WTSP (Aug. 23, 2016) “Feds crack down on degrading nursing home patient pics.”

Suggested Key Words: Elder Law, Elder Abuse