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In news that’s made national headlines and spurred an outpouring of support for the victim, suicide hotline workers at the Veterans Crisis Center may have saved the life of an elderly veteran of the United States Coast Guard after a couple of thieves managed to empty his bank account.

The 82-year-old veteran fell prey to the scam artists after befriending a 31-year-old woman several years ago. He periodically gave her money when she was down on her luck out of sympathy for her children.

Apparently, the woman and her 28-year-old boyfriend sensed an opportunity and ramped up their efforts to get as much money as they could from the veteran. First, the woman called and, claiming she’d been arrested, asked for money to pay for drug testing by her probation officer — which she claimed was the only way to keep her out of jail and her children out of the system.

Then the woman’s boyfriend called the veteran. He pretended to be the woman’s probation officer and demanded money daily — obtaining sums between $150 and $1,000 at a time. When the veteran didn’t pay fast enough, the boyfriend “seized” the elderly man’s car.

The duo ran through the $50,000 in the man’s savings account and his car as they fed their drug habit. When they realized the police were on to them, they started issuing death threats to the elderly victim, ordering him to drop the charges.

Cases like this are, unfortunately, more common than most people realize. Financial exploitation of the elderly is a multi-million (or billion) dollar industry these days. As seniors experience cognitive declines, they become more vulnerable to scams — sometimes by strangers, but often by acquaintances and even family members.

A possible solution to the problem is to seek a conservatorship or financial guardianship over a senior who is vulnerable. If you have concerns about a loved one, talk to an experienced attorney.