I feel my father is being scammed. What can I do?

6 answers | Last updated: Nov 20, 2016
Buddy1968 asked...

My father hands out money to a man who does odd jobs for him. This man has been in jail many times and now knows he can get money from Dad and never show up to work. Over the last four weeks he gave him $1800.00 to "fix" the roof. But of course he never has. Is there anything we can do?

Expert Answers

As Founder and Director of Circles of Care, Ann Cason provides caregiving, consulting, and training services to individuals and public and private organizations involved in eldercare. She is the author of Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders.

I am sorry to hear that your father has been victimized.  So many elders, who feel a little sad and lonely, become easy prey for con men.  My own father once bought a con man an old pick up truck by charging it to his credit card.

As it was with my father, this event is a signal.  Your father is not feeling good about himself.    Our parents need  protection.    Many do not want it.    How can you give your father the security he needs withough robbing him of his dignity?

  • If you have siblings, talk with them about your concerns. Siblings should be included in any activitiy concerning the finances of your parents.
  • Go over his daily scedule.  Write it down.  See what is missing. from his life. Are his faculties dimming?  Is he bored?  Is he grieving? Has his pride been diminished?
  • Is there some way that you can surrond your father with more support?  Can the family get together for dinner on a regular basis?.
  •  Is it possible to find another helper who is trustworthy?  Does your father need someone to run errands with him?  Or go for a walk or morning coffee?
  • Is it pssible with love and tenderness to ask your father if you could help with his finances?
  • Don't expect that he will be happy. Some elders feel that their children want to get control of their money and put them in an institution. 
  • Go slow.  Be patient.   Drop a suggestion and then pull back.   Let it soak in.
  • Take your father for lunch or for a drive or just relax together watching a program and sharing a cup of coffee with a piece of cake. 
  • Later, you can tell him,  "Dad, I don't want anyone to take your money. Can I start helping to pay your bills?" Or, Can my brother do it?    Or can we get a bookkeeper? Do you need a family trust?  There are so many things, power of attorney, will, advanced directive.
  • Dont  give up.    Your father needs your help. Go slow.  Be caring. Develop patience.  We don't have to pay for our dignity.  It is right there in our communication.
  • Last but not least----this scam should be reported to the police.  Also check to see if there are agencies that deal with elder abuse.   The Chamber of Commerce should know about this scam in your community, and the senior center would also appreciate knowing about scams that particularly target older adults. 

Community Answers

Mbarlondsmith answered...

Please contact the police regarding this matter. My elderly aunt who lived in Daytona Fl had a guy pull a similar scam which ended up costing her over 35,000.00 Those that take advantage of our seniors need to be reported and the elderly quite often will not due so because they are embarressed. Try to get a family member involved to assist him or contact the local Council on Ageing - they quite often will ofter assistence in financial areas and your father may be more confortable with an outside person to retain his privacy.

Francesc answered...

Sorry to hear about what has been happening with your dad.

I agree with mbartonsmith; you absolutely do need to report this to the police. If there is some way you can catch the guy at the house when you're there you could even call the police then to make sure he's picked up. Chances are your dad will be upset with you for this, but it may very well be that your dad thinks this guy is a friend, which he's not.

If you're not in the same city as your dad then maybe you could solicit help from some of your dad's neighbors to just pop in and keep an eye on him.

Ann Carson's advice to go slow is exactly on target. I have struggled with my mom's apprehension of letting me be involved in my parents' care. She once even told me she felt like I was trying to "take over", which I was and still am not. My only goals for trying to help my mom are to make sure she gets what she needs and no one takes advantage of her.

It seems to me as we age we all seem to need help but don't always see it. I think of aging as growing up in reverse; we need less help as we go from young to older, but as we get much older we need more help. That's a hard thing for most folks to realize and accept.

Good luck dealing with this situation.

Barefoot answered...

Unfortunately, I have been in somewhat of the same situation where my Mother "invested" large sums in what was clearly a Ponzi scheme. And yes, she is also giving money to ex-con "handymen" who wander up. What I found was that FL Eldercare (and the SEC in the case of the Ponzi scheme) were sympathetic but unless your parent files the report, there is nothing anyone will do. In the case of the roofing, can you prove your father gave him money to do the roofing job and that he hasn't done it (or can you defend against their claims that he intends to do it)?

I wish I could offer a suggestion but basically there is little you can do. If you DO successfully get the police involved, please let us all know.

A fellow caregiver answered...

The same thing has happened with my brother. We live in South Carolina. I have talked with the police, and there is absolutely nothing I can do unless my brother is willing to file charges. And he refuses to do this because he feels sorry for the guy. I would really like to do something to bring this issue to the attention of those in position to change the laws, but I'm not sure what my first step should be. If anyone has suggestions, please let me know!

A fellow caregiver answered...

my father has been being scammed by his now ''wife'' in africa. the elder services here hardly helped at all when i called last year and couldnt help this year either. nothing they can do unless there is a diagnosis of incapacitation, which is hard to get when most your other faculties are there. my neighbors could not even get one when their mother started getting paranoid. i would say contact the attorney as they are obligated to talk financial sense w your parent, and the police. these are two things on my list to do. i feel your pain and good luck! also i would highly suggest joining some sort of support group if you can in your area, it helps greatly to know that you are not alone :)