‘Vulnerable adults, most often seniors,’ are targets for scammers, says guardian Rick Black

The National Council on Aging warns seniors that scams targeting older adults are on the rise.  Rick Black founded  the Center for Estate Administration Reform, in 2018 “to bring attention to the issue of predatory attorneys targeting vulnerable adults, most often seniors.”

In a recent interview with Rebecca Weber, CEO of the Association of Mature American Citizens, on her Better For America podcast, he warned that elder fraud is on the rise.

As Black put it, “the lack of oversight in our equity court system and the ability for attorneys to work together can create a narrative that completely dupes a judge and allows them to inappropriately get control of you and your estate. We coined a phrase years ago, isolate the victim, defame legitimate protectors, and loot the estate. Control of the body in these affairs is rather critical. And so older folks, after their spouse has passed, are often alone, maybe thousands of miles from their children. And so, they become even more vulnerable than they had been, because the isolation, the distance, is the friend of an exploiter.  And an attorney who has all the insights on the dynamics of your family are given the keys to your kingdom.  And that could be done through durable power of attorney frauds, trust frauds, generic probate frauds and, of course, adult guardianship conservatorship frauds.”

Elder wealth is a con man’s dream, according to CEAR.

According to CEAR, “$1.5 trillion dollars per year passes generationally in the U.S. today. That number is projected to grow to $2.5 trillion by 2035. Today’s seniors control the greatest wealth in American history. Adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities, trust assets and federal entitlements represent significant wealth as well.”

During his BFA interview, Black revealed that his family had experienced senior fraud first-hand. He said that his wife was an only child and as her father grew older, he was stricken with dementia. She was the executor of his will. He was living with a family friend in Las Vegas who, it turned out, was “exploiting him. We never believed that a family friend would choose to take advantage of a vulnerable senior and completely deceive the entire family. When we made the discovery, we went to his aid, and found that the roommate, who at that point was about 75, had taken him hostage and had forged three checks totaling $220,000 and was exploiting him financially due to his growing dementia. We never believed that a family acquaintance would choose to take advantage of a vulnerable senior and completely deceive the entire family. We went to the police and asked them to intervene, and they refused to do it, which is typical nationwide, even with the compelling material evidence of three forged checks, and the fact that he was being held captive. Most of your listeners will say that just can’t happen in the U.S.  The exploiter had a raft of attorneys defending her and making sure that my wife’s dad stayed isolated from the family.  In summary, we did not get guardianship.”

Black’s story raises the question, what can one do in such a situation?

“Our strongest recommendation, and you can do this for free by pulling forms off the internet, is to execute a durable power of attorney and a healthcare surrogate or healthcare advanced directive, naming an agent and a successor agent on those documents,” Black said. “And most important, after you have them notarized, you sit down with those agents and give them a copy of that document and make sure that they understand that you are contracting with them that if you become vulnerable or cannot speak for yourself, that they’re to come to your aid and support you in that regard.  It’s a temporary contract.  It’s one that you can at any time dismiss, notify those parties and create new parties that can protect you.  But our strongest recommendation is to execute those documents and give them to your trusted and legitimate protector.”