Rescuing the elderly from financial fraud

These MONEY heroes keep an eye out for the financial security of nursing-home residents and other seniors who may be targeted for fraud.

  • Stopping scammers

    Shonita Bossier, 42
    Director, Division of Securities, Kentucky Department of Financial Inst

    When Bossier started as a Kentucky securities regulator in 2009 after 17 years in banking, she was floored by the number of investment cons targeting the elderly that crossed her desk.

    In response she revived ScamJam, a seminar for seniors spotlighting telltale signs of fraud (“Low risk!” “High rewards!”). In 2010 she introduced a state law doubling fines against scammers preying on older citizens.

    Now she’s working to help doctors and nurses identify cognitively impaired individuals vulnerable to rip-offs.

    “Seniors save hard to be secure. Then someone comes along with the right words and takes all their money,” says Bossier.

  • A voice for the elderly

    Elizabeth Bispo, 65

    Volunteer ombudsman, Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services

    A retired nurse, Bispo saw that many of her charges were unable to fight for their rights and needs. So in 2009 she volunteered for a federal program intended to resolve nursing-home residents’ complaints.

    Required to visit monthly, she instead goes weekly to four facilities in her hometown of Fredericksburg, Texas. She addresses financial problems both small and large — for example, reporting a relative who’s draining a resident’s bank account.

    Her pet cause: explaining to families the need for a financial power of attorney.

    “I try to educate people about watching out for their parents. Because what I see happens when it’s too late,” says Bispo.

  • Old money, new scams

    Creativity knows no bounds, unfortunately, when it comes to criminals trying to separate older adults from their money.

    Here’s how to protect your loved ones from some of the latest senior swindles:

    Fake medical IDs

    Fraudsters, reports AARP, have started telling people that the Affordable Care Act mandates a new government insurance card — obtained by supplying their bank account info and their Medicare ID. No such card exists; for real changes to Medicare, visit

    Related: Taxpayer guide to Obamacare

    Misdirected Social Security

    Taking advantage of the Social Security Administration’s new online system, scammers posing as SSA employees obtain personal data from seniors, then reroute checks to their account. So open an account ASAP, before a thief does; if you receive an unexpected SSA acknowledgment of an account change, call 800-772-1213.

    Fire-sale pensions

    Seniors with pensions, report FINRA and the SEC, are being offered upfront cash for their future payments. The catch: The deals can be awfully stingy, and they may be illegal too. Better options, says Columbus, Ohio, planner Jill Gianola, are a personal line of credit from a bank, or an FHA-approved reverse mortgage.

    — Hailey Lee

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