Computer confused? You’re ripe or scam

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Religiously Speaking
Frances Stebbins

It may come as a shock to realize that after about age 53, your ability to handle your finances, slowly but progressively, declines. After 70 or so, more than one-third of Americans are mentally impaired enough that they’ll show a lack of wisdom in handling their money.


Some of the people you may trust as active in your church are not as honest as you think.

Too few folk with a special interest in senior-age adults showed up for a recent meeting on a cold and wet night to learn about “Scams…how people can be Exploited.”

It was one of a series of free educational programs sponsored by Salem Area Ecumenical Ministries especially for adults in their later years and held at College Lutheran Church with refreshments following.

The speaker on scams was Ann McGee Green, an attorney who specializes in elder law.

She told the group that older Virginians lose $1.2 billion yearly by being taken in by various promises, promotions and threats, all of which may sound inviting especially to those who are worried, lonely and trusting.

The issue –and no doubt why we’re hearing more about it—has become more pressing with the advent of the technology age, the attorney pointed out. The speed with which computer-related services and devices have made many familiar activities obsolete has confused and irritated many senior adults who must rely on their younger family members and friends to help them, especially with their finances and medical decisions.

It’s a lot easier than it used to be, the lawyer said, to meddle in the bank accounts of seniors who are not up to speed with on-line bill paying. And for church people especially, who are taught to love and trust, it’s hard to “be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove,” as a folk saying has it.

Women more often lose savings in scams that is not surprising, Green said, “Since they tend to live longer after deaths or divorces from their men”. However, she also noted that business men who commonly deal with money, also are often big losers. They are more likely to speculate and enjoy the gamble of expansion beyond their means. And they will rarely admit they made a foolish choice.

What does this have to do with people of faith? Green, a Baptist married to a church staff member, advised those within a congregation to take note when the financial circumstances of a member appear to change. Do members really win the lottery? Rarely, someone might. More likely when a person who has been a regular contributor suddenly seems poverty-stricken a theft might be suspected. The appearance of a new “friend” in an elderly single’s life could signal a fortune-hunter who professes love to get his hands on her savings.

Caregivers are vulnerable, Green said, for it’s easy for them to feel weary and unappreciated. She advised clear and written documents relating to their compensation.

Adult children who, for many reasons, may be dependent on their parents, are a frequent source of draining funds. A lawyer, who can set up a trust, may well be needed, as well as a professional counselor, to untangle the hard feelings brought about by parents who give in, especially for the sake of grandchildren, and permit a drinker or gambler to rob them. Green indicated that her 20-year practice has included many such cases.

As for unwanted telephone calls with promises or phony appeals for aid, no response is Rule 1, the group learned.

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