Dementia and Con Artists

Older adults have long been the target of fraud and scams. There are several reasons for this and the most common being impaired judgment and loss of cognitive ability.  The onset of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia may make your loved one a target for scammers and con artists.   Let’s face it, we have all come across someone who has tried to get money or information out of us. Be it through someone on the street asking for money or emails offering “special” deals.  As adults, we are usually able to assess the situation and make a judgment call.  We notice that the beggar is wearing expensive shoes and probably isn’t homeless; We are wary when the email asks for our credit card or banking information.  We encounter a variety of these attempts on a regular basis.  Imagine someone with Alzheimer’s reacting to these situations.

It is easy to assume that a loved one, such as a parent, wouldn’t fall for a scam.  After all, they are the ones who taught us to be careful of strangers.  Early onset dementia may go undetected for years. Even when diagnosed, many family members attribute the forgetfulness to old age and may be in denial.  In some  cases, a spouse may be able to protect the other from such cons. However, what if both parents show signs of dementia? Alternatively, the spouse is a widow and spends the majority of their time caring for themselves?  These are the people who become easy targets.  Many are targeted over and over before loved ones realize it.

It is important to understand that cons and fraud come in many forms.  We are all aware of the phone calls that ask for financial information to secure a prize won or to secure  investment opportunities.  However, many con artists pose themselves as family members, such as grandchildren, and ask them to wire money.  This scam can be performed over the phone or via email/internet.  As mentioned before, there are countless scams laying in wait all over the internet.  With baby boomers reaching the 65+ range, older adults will be computer users, unlike in the past.  It could take a just a few strokes for a loved one to lose all of their savings.

Another thing to be aware of is that not all con artists work anonymously.  Sadly, there are daily occurrences when local businesses and even neighbors take advantage of older adults, either by scare tactics or out right lying to them.  There was a recent article where an auto repair shop convinced an older woman that she needed a new set of tires. Afterward, they discovered that they had sold her a new set of tires two weeks prior.  She had no memory of buying the first set and could not determine on her own that her tires were not in bad shape.  This was all the result of dementia and how it affected her cognitive abilities.  In the same article, one man discovered that his father’s neighbor was charging him a ridiculous amount of money for simple chores that he had done.

Cons and frauds have always been a part of society.  The advancements in technology have made it easier for more of them to reach us and our loved ones so we must be more careful than ever.  We are interested in hearing your experiences on this topic.  Have you or a loved one been the target of a scam? How did you discover it? Deal with it?  Please share your stories. Your experiences may help others in similar situations.