My Mother Found a Prince (and Other Unlikely-to-be-Real Scams)

By Pati Bedwell

We’ve all heard about the Nigerian prince scam. It’s been around for a while, so long that most older adults have heard about it. Many are certain that they would never fall victim to something so obvious. These are famous last words for many, who may not have fallen for the Nigerian prince, but for the same scam wearing different clothes

Let’s face it. Scamming has been with us for years and years. The Nigerian Prince scam became the most well-known online scam in the 90s. In 2019, despite all the information and education designed to get the word out about this scam, the Nigerian Prince reportedly still pulled in $700,000.
And that’s just one scam. There are hundreds more. Unfortunately, a lot of them target the senior population.

Scammers play on an elder’s vulnerability to believe what people tell them. Not all seniors do, but many in this age group grew up taking people at their word. Many have not been exposed to the idea of scams, much less the actuality of them. To make matters worse, the scammers are getting better and better at their craft. Some scammers don’t ask for anything the first time they talk with a person, and they may not ask for anything on the second, third or fourth time. They build a “relationship” with the senior who may be lonely and may believe the story the scammer tells them. Then there’s the “your grandson is in jail and needs bail money.” What self-respecting grandparent would deny helping their grandson out in a situation like that???

Other scammers use fear tactics, maybe telling the elder they will lose their house if this tax bill isn’t paid today. Scammers seem to be ready with a scam or two before they call and will decide which avenue to take based on their initial impression of what the senior may believe about the story the scammer is about to tell them. It’s very nefarious. Most of us cannot understand how scammers sleep at night, but that’s what makes them scammers and keeps us the good guys. As the “good guys” our job is to protect our seniors as much as possible—or as much as they will allow.

To protect our elderly loved ones from scammers, it’s helpful to understand why they would fall victim to a scam. Most of the people I’ve talked with who did, have told me they liked having someone to talk to, someone who seems to care about them. There’s even been a few who said they knew they were being scammed but they were okay with it. That’s how lonely and isolated they felt.

Confronting an elder about a possible scam is tough. Often, when the family suspects the elder is being scammed, it becomes the elder who is at fault. Or at least that’s the perception the elder gets. Families are vocal in wondering how the elder could fall for something like that. Family members will come to me with questions. Why didn’t they tell me they were lonely? Why do they keep on talking to the scammer? What’s wrong with my loved one??

A Life Care Planning Law Firm can help elders and their families with situations such as this. How? Well, first off, we try to stay abreast of what scams are being reported in our area and we listen. We listen to the elder and we listen to the family. Because we work with our clients over time, our elder care coordinators work to establish a trusting relationship with our clients. We talk with them on a regular basis to keep up with whatever’s going on with them. It’s important that the elder has someone they can talk with, someone who is not a family member. It’s not that there’s a problem with family members, but keep in mind, the elders used to be the ones in charge. They are not always comfortable opening up to their children about anything they think diminishes them, and falling for a scam is right in that wheelhouse.

The elder care coordinators will talk with the elder to gently show them what’s really going on. Then, they work to try to fix whatever led the client to get involved in a scam. Are they lonely? Is that how they got involved? If so, then we work to find outlets for them. Is there a Senior Center close by with activities they might like? Adult day services? Volunteering opportunities?

When you choose a Life Care Planning Law Firm, you work with a team that establishes a solid relationship with our clients, and that relationship is what families can lean on at times like this. Because we’re not family, we bring an objective view to the table which can help elders and their families understand one another and, sometimes, that’s priceless. 

Find a Life Care Planning Law Firm near you.

Pati Bedwell is an elder care coordinator at Takacs McGinnis Elder Care Law, a Life Care Planning Law Firm in Hendersonville, Tennessee.