An elderly patient came into an Intermountain clinic for a health check, but when caregivers spoke further with his family, they learned of an alarming concern: The patient had been targeted in a series of scams that had resulted in him giving away thousands of dollars. He’d been a victim of fraud.
The man’s provider, who wishes to remain anonymous, spearheaded helping this family find resources and advocacy. He referred them to a care manager to research and provide the information they’d need to help their loved one.
The care manager, who also wishes to remain anonymous so we’ll call her Nancy, says the situation had been very frustrating for the family. “This patient was deeply entrenched in this scam,” Nancy says. “Even after they’d changed their loved one’s phone number, he was so convinced the scammers were trustworthy that he turned around and gave them his new number.”
“He was willing to do anything for these people,” she says. “He’d let strangers pick him up to take him to a loan office or to buy gift cards. These people went above and beyond, in a terrible way.”
Nancy gave the family resources, but she took it a step further and drilled down the exact information they’d need to protect their loved one. “I called each resource and asked, ‘If I give this number to this family, what can they expect to receive when they call? Are you the person they should talk to? Often, the caller on the other line would give me a different number after I explained the situation,” she says.
“For example, the Salt Lake County Aging & Adult Services let me know the family would need to report the fraud by calling the local police department and filing a report (to get a case number). Then when I called the police department and explained the situation, they gave me the direct line to the detective that handles these cases. I passed this number along to the family.”
Nancy also learned the family should contact the Elder Fraud Hotline and file a report using their local police department case number.
The provider further helped the family complete social security paperwork to help secure the patient’s assets and funds. Nancy says, “They designated what’s known as a ‘representative payee.’ This makes sure all the incoming money is protected and goes to the representative payee who can distribute it to their loved one. This person then has to make an accounting of all the money that’s spent, which further protects their loved one.”
Once the family knew how to help, Nancy says it helped them rebuild a rapport with the patient. After many discussions she says the patient has begun to trust his family again and believes they’re honest.
“Unfortunately, elder fraud is more common than most people realize or recognize,” says the provider. “If you think back to all the fraudulent calls and emails you receive and then put yourself in the shoes of an 80 or 90 year old who didn’t grow up with technology, our seniors are quite vulnerable. I think about this every day when I don’t answer the ‘potential spam’ phone call or email. These scams are actually targeting the elderly and specifically those with memory issues, technology issues, and dementia.
“Typically, it’s a family member who brings the problem to our attention, but this is usually only because we’ve asked about it as part it of a cognitive assessment. Patients and families tend to be too embarrassed to bring it up on their own. I’m very fortunate to have the support of our nurse care manager who could help this family and address their situation in a timely manner.”
According to studies in the National Institutes of Health, older adults – and particularly those seniors who are housebound during the COVID-19 pandemic – may experience worsening cognitive impairment and higher rates of stress, loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Scammers prey on these emotions.
- Salt Lake County Aging & Adult Services, Phone: 385-468-3200
- Department of Justice Stop Elder Fraud, Phone: 833-372-8311
- The 36-hour day, A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Other Dementias, and Memory Loss, a book recommended by Dr. Porter for his patients
- Tips from the Federal Trade Commission to avoid fraud
- Tips from Intermountain to protect yourself from scams