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State jumps in to help professionals protect elderly clients from fraud

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Information is available to help professionals that serve the elderly prevent financial fraud. (Contributed)
Information is available to help professionals that serve the elderly prevent financial fraud. (Contributed)

Professionals that service the elderly can be on the front lines of protecting those senior clients from financial fraud and abuse.

That’s the message of the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, which has compiled a TOOLKIT of helpful information which professionals can use to intervene if they think one of their elderly clients is being scammed.

Brian LaForme, executive deputy director of the department, has been hosting a series of professional seminars for professional groups that work regularly with older clients, introducing them to the concept of how they can help prevent those clients from being financially abused or scammed.

“We’re looking for people who are influencers in the community. Accountants are perfect examples,” LaForme said.

But, he said, it’s not just those who work directly with elderly clients and their money that can help; any professionals with contact with older adults can help.

“Doctors, lawyers, cosmetologists,” he said. “There’s no single profession. Anyone might be the one point of contact that makes a difference in a senior’s life.”

LaForme gave the example of a hairdresser who has been servicing the same client for 15 years, but lately that client has been coming in looking disheveled or more unkempt than usual. That might indicate there’s a problem.

He said a banker might also notice that an elderly client is now being accompanied by a younger, perhaps extremely demanding person that seems to be controlling their finances.

“There are red flags, and it can be anyone, a guardian or someone who is close to them,” he said.

Seniors are also more commonly targeted by scams from strangers, he said.

Seniors can have a lessening of cognitive ability that might make them more vulnerable to scams that might seem obvious to others.

He notes that some of the scams aren’t just “a prince from Nigeria with a big check he needs help cashing,” but more sophisticated “grandparent scams” that use information about family members collected off social media that can even make savvy people vulnerable to a scam.

The older generation is also less likely to just “hang up” on a caller that might be suspect because they consider such things “rude.”

In addition to making the TOOLKIT available online, LaForme said, his department is willing to visit to speak to professional groups to detail the issue of elder financial abuse and ways to help.

Some professionals who are required to obtain continuing education credits can receive those credits for participating in these seminars.

For more information, professional groups can contact the department at informed@pa.gov.

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Stacy Wescoe

Stacy Wescoe

Writer and online editor Stacy Wescoe has her finger on the pulse of the business community in the Greater Lehigh Valley and keeps you up-to-date with technology and trends, plus what coworkers and competitors are talking about around the water cooler — and on social media. She can be reached at stacyw@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4104. Follow her on Twitter at @morestacy and on Facebook. Circle Stacy Wescoe on .

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