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advice

L AW R E V I E W

Stop, Drop & Roll: Preparing for Financial Fire by Margaret (Mia) Lorenz, Attorney

When I was very young, my mother would have fire drills at our house. I was one of four children. My mother would “pretend” tuck us all in bed, and then yell “Fire – Fire.” We had been told where to go in the house for exit, and upon hearing the panicked “Fire – Fire” we rushed to the second story window that exited over the garage to escape. We were prepared for fire with advanced planning and drills. We also had drilled into us that once we got out of the house, we should dial 911 for help. Unfortunately, seniors are not as prepared with an advance plan, and seniors do not always call 911.

People over 55 hold the majority of the nation’s wealth – and criminals know and prey on this. These criminals also know that as people age, financial skills are among the first skills to diminish – this includes impairment of insight as to whether something is a scam or legitimate offer. Moreover, the criminals know that seniors will be embarrassed and scared of judgment, and are therefore unlikely to report the crime; so, the criminals know that they will likely NOT be chased. Scams that target seniors are only increasing – because the seniors hold the wealth. How do you prevent being a victim of financial abuse?

In my work, I see many instances of financial exploitation of seniors. Through my work, and through research, I have discovered that very often seniors do not have an awareness of financial abuse statistics, and that seniors do not “report” financial abuse either to the authorities or to their family. The failure to report the crime is especially true when a senior is the victim of a crime that involves theft by a trusted caregiver; theft by a family member; and/or theft by a criminal who duped the senior. You see, being the victim of a crime is a horrifying and traumatic experience on its own. If you throw into the mix, the fact that the senior victim fears losing their independence; fears that they will be “put in a home”; fears that their mind is failing and “this will prove that my abilities are diminished,” you have the perfect storm of emotions that cause a senior to NOT report the crime. As a result, senior financial abuse is one of the most under-reported crimes in America.

The first step is to understand that senior financial abuse is a widespread epidemic that deserves your attention and preparation. There are corporations in existence whose sole goal is to safeguard seniors’ assets from criminals who especially prey on them! There is specially-designed technology to prevent the abuse of a senior’s assets! This is a real threat and warrants discussion between you and your trusted friend or relative.

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Embedded in the first step is the reality that as a person ages, you maintain independence best by making sure you have a trusted person on your side and in the know. Shortly put: HAVE A PLAN to prevent the crime. The fact is that as we age, our bodies and/or mind will age too. No “fountain of youth” has been discovered. Needing the assistance of another, as we age, is a fact. In my opinion,

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