My father is 68 years old, and recently a widower. His wife, my stepmother, had a tight rein on their finances and, as such, he was unable to spend as much or do as much as he wanted. She passed in December. Recently, he has “connected” with someone on Facebook
— a woman he didn’t know and who wasn’t a friend of anyone on his friends list.
I found out about this when he called my brother for help because he had tried to share his Netflix
account information with her and it wasn’t working. My brother and I both told him that it was very dangerous to share account information and passwords, as scammers can use that information to access other accounts or credit-card information.
“‘My brother and I both told him that it was very dangerous to share account information and passwords, as scammers can use that information to access other accounts or credit-card information.’”
We asked him to stop talking to her, and to never, ever give out account information. Yesterday, I learned that he has still been in communication with this person, and from a friend I also learned that he had tried to send money to her — when it wasn’t working, he converted it to bitcoin
to send to her so she could “come visit him.”
This is not the first time he has been scammed like this. Before he married my stepmother, he was in communication with another person overseas, to whom he sent at least $10,000 over the course of several months for “plane tickets,” to “pay bills,” etc., all in the hopes that she would come see him.
It caused a great strain in our relationship, as he would not listen to me that it was a scam, not even when I gave him proof that it was a scam. How do I navigate these waters now and what can I do to protect his finances? I am not in a place financially to bail him out or care for him if he loses it all from a scam.
Annoyed with Scammers
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Your father feels isolated and lonely, and it’s hard to break this fantastical dream that he has found or may find love again. It’s doubly difficult when the person on the other end of the line is telling him that they understand and see him.
An intervention risks your father feeling like he is being controlled or infantilized. Of course, that’s not your intention and, even if he were to believe that, it does not make it true.
Report the profile in question to Facebook as fake. Talk to your father, ask him how he is, and tell him that you understand he is lonely and has been through a lot — but that sending money to strangers on the internet is almost without exception a scam, and that investing more time, emotion and, yes, money into this promise of a relationship won’t make it real, nor will it change the outcome. That said, you will have to go around him if he does not take action himself.
“An intervention risks your father feeling like he is being controlled or infantilized. Of course, that’s not your intention and, even if he were to believe that, it does not make it true. ”
The American Bankers Association also has the following advice regarding elder financial abuse: “Talk to a trusted family member who has your best interests at heart, or to your clergy. Talk to your attorney, doctor or an officer at your bank. Contact Adult Protective Services in your state or your local police for help. Report all instances of elder financial abuse to your local police — if fraud is involved, they should investigate.”
Your father is not alone in his experience. People who are alone are particularly vulnerable to scammers.
“Seniors are increasingly becoming targets for financial abuse,” the ABA adds. “As people over 50 years old control over 70% of the nation’s wealth, fraudsters are using new tactics to take advantage of retiring baby boomers and the growing number of older Americans. Senior financial abuse is estimated to have cost victims at least $2.9 billion last year alone.”
But how do you find the words? Some suggestions: “I love you. I’m worried about you. I don’t want to see you taken advantage of, and I don’t want you to get hurt. This happens to millions of people every year — millions of intelligent, sensitive people just like you and me. No one is immune from the threat of scams.”
I hope you find a way to help him out, but it will take a team of family members and professionals. This does not sound like something you can do alone.
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