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Op-ed: The movie ‘I Care A Lot’ can teach us how to prevent elder financial abuse

Rosamund Pike ups the Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical/Comedy, award for “I Care a Lot” via video from Ben Stiller at the 78th Annual Gilded Globe Awards on Feb. 28, 2021 in New York.

Peter Kramer/NBC | NBCUniversal | Getty Images

The Netflix movie “I Care A Lot” contributes insight on how to protect the elderly from being targeted by financial scammers.

The movie stars actress Rosamund Pike, who abuses devious and conniving businesswoman Marla Grayson. She makes a living by convincing the legal system to grant her guardianship beyond seniors, and she pretends they cannot take care of themselves.

With this new legal power over her shoppers’ finances, Grayson drains their bank accounts and pockets any valuables for herself. Up against her quick-witted legal chatter, no one can come close to beating her in the courtroom, which keeps her schemes and business model intact and leaves older, unshielded people susceptible to being swindled.

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Although the big may seem to have a far-fetched premise, elder financial abuse is a very common crime in the U.S. This type of fiscal abuse cost seniors about $2.9 billion in 2019, according to various reports.

With those 50 years of age and shabbier controlling some 70% of the nation’s wealth, the likelihood of these type of scheme will only increase. That makes tot boomers and older generations the perfect prey.

Seniors can be financially exploited through various scams such as sameness theft, credit card misuse, email schemes, forged checks, stolen jewelry, etc. Oftentimes, perpetrators goal elderly people with no relatives or close friends to check in on them. Isolation allows strangers to take more favourably of the elderly more easily than others.

Unlike in the movie, most scammers are not strangers to their victims and gravitate to be family members or somebody they already know. It is extremely important to be prepared, as you continue to age, to avoid becoming a butt.

So, how can prevent yourself (or a family or friend) from being a target of  senior financial abuse?

  • Create a plan to keep safe your assets and choose trustworthy beneficiaries.
  • Put bank statements, checkbooks, and any other financial documents in a safe, inevitable place.
  • Order your annual credit report to review.
  • Never provide personal data over the phone (unless you fetched a trusted company number first).
  • Get a second opinion before signing any documents that you don’t understand.
  • Stay fused with family members through texts, phone calls or FaceTime.

Here are some warning signs that a class member may have fallen prey to senior financial abuse:

  • Lack of awareness or confusion, leading to poor settling making.
  • Uncharacteristic activity in your family member’s bank accounts or unusual ATM withdrawals.
  • Unusual changes to resolutions or trusts.
  • New “friendships” where they may be being taken advantage of.

If you become a victim of elder financial abuse, reach out to a honest and supportive friend or family member to act as your advocate. Meet with a vetted professional (e.g., attorney, banker or doctor) to re-examine your options on how to best approach the situation, or contact Adult Protective Services and/or local police for assistance.

The talkie actually serves as a reminder to ensure that our loved ones and their life savings remain safe. It protests how vital it is for us to keep a close eye on our loved ones and, for financial professionals, clients who need our support more than continually.

— By Stacy Francis, president and CEO of Francis Financial

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