Seniors - Beware of Vultures

Question: I read through your article on how the elderly are being taken advantage of financially in this day and age.  I will not discount the importance of what you stated, but there is a whole additional area of abuse that we are experiencing.  It borders on mail and telephone fraud and a whole bunch of additional undesirables.

My wife is 90 and not as clear thinking as she once was.  She takes mail and phone offers of prosperity to be factual.  It is obvious to me that they are only ways by which charlatans are trying to separate her from her money.  She is convinced that they will arrive at the front door with a million dollar check.  Factually they want her to meet them at a local parking lot with a check to them for “finalizing” the transfer of money.

My concern is for the many elderly women, and men, who are doing exactly what they are being requested to do and consequently turning over their life savings to these vultures.

I have contacted the Monterey Police Department about the problem and they simply say to throw out the mail or hang up the phone.  Good advice, but clear thinking individuals are the only ones who will do this.  My wife persists in responding, even with the best of guidance from those she trusts.

Answer:  You bring attention to a vulturous problem that I have witnessed personally and fear is all too common.

There once was an older lady who would come to my office whenever she received one of those mail offer scams.  She would show up excited and determined that she was entitled to a large sum of money.  Sometimes, she would have already responded by telephone and established a telephone rapport with whoever had originated the scam.  She was always ready to send them money and always expecting them to send her a bigger amount in return.  In most cases, we were able to convince her that the offer was a rip-off and to back away.  I’m afraid there may have been other times when she was fleeced.  Eventually her attorney got involved and her finances were put into a conservatorship.

It’s been my experience that some people change as they age.  They lose their ability to make rational decisions about money even while still making rational decisions about other matters, or vice versa.  Some become more trusting and some become guarded and stop trusting anybody, even their kids.  Some start to give their money away and others hoard it. 

Your wife is lucky to have you to watch over her.  Your concern for the many elderly men and women who live alone is valid.  Meals on Wheels and other senior advocates will visit and check on elderly individuals who request it, and hopefully they will become aware of problems and invoke help from the person’s family or the Monterey County Public Guardian’s office.

Kenneth B. Petersen CFP®, EA, MBA, AIFA® is an investment manager and Principal of Monterey Private Wealth, Inc., a Wealth Management Firm in Monterey.   He welcomes questions that you may have concerning investing, taxes, retirement, or estate planning.  Send your questions to: Ken Petersen, 2340 Garden Road Suite 202, Monterey, CA  93940 or email them to