For hours, Elaine (not her real name), age 69, sat on the lanai of her Pearl City townhouse waiting. She was told that at any moment, the governor was going to arrive and present her with a new car and a check for $2 million. During this time, her adult son was yelling because he just found out that over the past year, she wired over $40,000 to the “International Lottery Commission” to pay the fees and taxes on her lottery winnings. He was so upset, in fact, that neighbors called the police, fearing for the safety of the mother. When they arrived, he calmed down enough to ask her why she even wanted a car because she didn’t even drive. Her response was, “I wanted to get you something nice, for being such a good son.”
There have been numerous studies trying to explain why seniors fall victim to so many financial scams. Some theorize that as the brain ages, it becomes more susceptible to these cons. In essence, stating that a form of mild incompetency is a natural stage of growing older. This belief, in my opinion, is ageist, and does not explain the great many elders who lead productive and successful lives, well after their retirement age.
No, the vast majority of victims I have encountered were individuals of sound mind, with no defect in their cognitive thinking that led them to believe in something that was too good to be true.
In my experience, it is their desire to continue the role started decades ago, namely, being a provider. Many victims of financial abuse are either parents or grandparents, or persons who lived their life supporting a spouse or sibling. They worked hard and sacrificed to provide their family with the best they could afford. As it dawns on them that they may no longer be able to accomplish this self-appointed supporting role, they become desperate. Desperation leads them to want to believe that they are lucky enough to have won a lottery they never entered, or blessed by an invitation to participate in an investment opportunity with unbelievable returns.
These feelings of urgency are only fueled by the tactics of conmen who talk about “leaving a legacy” or guarantee a way of providing for the family once the senior is gone. Think of a life insurance advertisement on steroids with a lot of guilt added for effect.
How can this be prevented? Perhaps one thing a loved-one can do is communicate to the senior sincere gratitude for everything they have done for them. Explain how the senior’s hard work and encouragement provided a foundation to be successful in the their own lives. Or better yet, clearly demonstrate that they no longer need financial help from the Kupuna. It is through these actions, that the senior will know they completed their job of being a provider.