As a financial professional, you may not be aware of what is going on in your elderly clients’ daily lives, but families sometimes find out about scammers who have victimized their loved ones. You could come across them too. An adult child of your client may mention a situation that is alarming or your clients may tell you themselves about this “great product” they’ve gotten. If it sounds odd, start asking questions.
Here’s an example:
According to the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier, an adult daughter discovered that her aging parents were spending thousands of dollars on supplements to fix a wide range of health problems. The scammers were from Las Vegas based Leading Health Source, and they had taken advantage of the elderly couple’s vulnerability to their sales pitch. It might not have been so bad if they had simply sold the couple a reasonable amount of nutritional supplements. But over a period of 20 months Leading Health Source had ripped off the elders for more than $44,000, a sum they couldn’t afford.
This is the piece to which we, at AgingInvestors.com want you to pay the most attention. In this instance, the daughter took action. She went to bat for her aging parents, rather than doing nothing or considering it her parents’ problem.
Leading Edge was investigated after the daughter reported the large sum her parents had paid to them. The daughter had attended an event held by Iowa Fraud Fighters at Kirkwood Community College. Presumably, she learned there that she should file a complaint with the state Attorney General and she did so.
The outcome in this case was very good for the elders. The matter was settled, and the Attorney General’s office demanded that Leading Edge pay back everything the couple had paid to them. That meant getting a check from Leading Edge for more than $23,000 to start and having the remainder of the credit card charges reversed.
The Courier, source of this story reported that the Attorney General’s investigators found Leading Edge well aware that the people they were selling to in this case were easily manipulated. Their telemarketers’ handwritten notes indicated that the elderly woman involved had “memory” issues and that her husband had dementia.
What can you, the professional, just managing money or offering products to your aging clients learn from this?
First, note that memory issues and dementia in an aging couple is a setup for fraud and abuse. If you think your own client may have these issues, even a little, beware. You could be prosecuted if you proceed with transactions. If law enforcement is contacted or FINRA is involved, you will be scrutinized. It could be, in the above example that Leading Edge owners and principals didn’t know what their unscrupulous telemarketers were doing. Perhaps the telemarketers were motivated by a commission or other sales incentive and an easy opportunity presented itself with an easy sale. But the principals were held liable nonetheless. They either failed to supervise adequately or they looked the other way. They are consequently barred from doing business in Iowa.
The second thing to learn is that family of your client may be a very helpful asset to the ethical financial services professional trying to preserve capital for a client. Understand your client’s family relationships and whom to trust. When even a whiff of possible abuse happens, you can report it to the authorities. You don’t have to be right if you suspect something. You just have to be reasonable in what you think is reportable problem. It’s better to report it with the facts you do know and have it turn out to be a false alarm than to take the chance of not doing anything and have your client suffer the effect of theft and fraud.
Learn about dementia and its effect on financial decision-making capacity. Learn the red flags so that you will be more confident to take action and know what action to take. We offer you CFP Board approved CE accredited webinars on financial capacity and what actions to take. Find it here.
Until next time,