Fraud Tainted by Emotion
Elder financial abuse, as in Francine’s case, doesn’t appear out of the blue, experts say. It may be the result of long-
festering family issues. Sometimes a big dose of rationalization is involved. “One of the things I’ve heard is, ‘It’s OK to steal or take this money from Mom and Dad because it’s my inheritance,’ ” says Jilenne Gunther, director of AARP’s BankSafe initiative.
Substance abuse may also play a role, Gunther says. The perpetrator may be a child or friend with a drug addiction.
Once someone close to you gets over the moral hurdles, the logistics are easy. A relative or friend, unlike a larcenous stranger, knows or can quickly find out exactly what you own and where it is. Most important, that person has your trust. Once a fraudster has that, experts say, getting you to agree to requests is relatively simple.
“This is the easiest crime to commit,” says Karen Sundstrom, who works for the Lexington County, South Carolina, Recreation and Aging Commission as an advocate for older adults who experience abuse. “It’s a piece of cake.”