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As the population continues to age, the elderly are becoming more and more vulnerable to scam artists. These scams can come in many forms, both legal and illegal, that impact negatively on the vulnerable elderly.

Seniors are often the target of these schemes because they are easier to prey on than younger people. By their nature, seniors are more trusting, and in many cases, are unlikely to report fraud to the proper authorities. Even when seniors report these crimes, they are often poor witnesses. Their age and memory make them poor candidates to report needed details to prosecute these individuals.

Fraud comes in many forms: identity theft, telemarketing scams, counterfeit drug scams, loan fraud, home improvement fraud, prizes and sweepstake scams, mail fraud, information mining, internet scams, the sale of legal goods and services that are totally unneeded, and lastly, Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

One kind of scam involves caretaker theft. Seniors are becoming more and more dependent on care takers, be they family members, or live-in employees. Eventually the senior can become completely dependent on the caretaker and unscrupulous caretakers take advantage of these situations. Children should be ever watchful when in these situations. I have had cases where seniors have given away homes and other very valuable assets to their caretakers. New Jersey has laws to protect seniors in these situations and if you suspect such abuse, please see an experienced elder law attorney immediately.

Seniors and their families need to become educated in ways to protect their nest egg and their safety. Most fraud occurs when seniors are alone, childless or have little contact with their children. Seniors can protect themselves by seeking help from trusted relatives and professionals. Many times they resist this help, thinking that they may lose control of their lives. They must be persuaded otherwise. See an attorney to obtain a financial power of attorney, will and living will is a good start. Hiring a geriatric care manager to evaluate the senior’s needs can prove invaluable. If you have any desire to discuss these issues further, we will provide you with a free initial consultation.

Finally guarding your credit information, being aware of imposters and being a smart consumer are the best things they can do.

Editor’s Note:    Michael A. Manna is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Boston College and a Cum Laude Graduate of Boston College Law School.  After working in the tax department of the CPA firm of Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co., Mr. Manna entered the private practice of law in Ridgewood, New Jersey in 1975.  Mr. Manna is admitted to practice in New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts and is a member of the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.  He is also a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Over the past thirty years, Mr. Manna has had extensive experience as a lecturer on legal topics for various boards of education and educational institutions. He can be reached at 201-447-2800.