Senior Scams: A 'New Friend' May Signal a Big Problem

From lavish spending to social withdrawal, what to look for to ensure an aging loved one isn't a victim of elder financial abuse.

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Your elderly mother has a new best friend who accompanies her everywhere. She has always been frugal but now lavishes pricey gifts on her new pal. And although you used to speak with her every few days, she never seems to answer your calls anymore.

Are these simply the signs of a senior living it up in her later years? Or is something sinister happening? Those are the difficult questions that can arise in cases of “undue influence,” in which a perpetrator takes advantage of his position of trust or power to gain control over the victim's decision-making, usually to line his own pockets. The perpetrator could be a new “best friend,” financial adviser, adult child or someone else close to the victim. And while anyone can fall victim to undue influence, those most vulnerable include older, more isolated individuals.

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Eleanor Laise
Senior Editor, Kiplinger's Retirement Report
Laise covers retirement issues ranging from income investing and pension plans to long-term care and estate planning. She joined Kiplinger in 2011 from the Wall Street Journal, where as a staff reporter she covered mutual funds, retirement plans and other personal finance topics. Laise was previously a senior writer at SmartMoney magazine. She started her journalism career at Bloomberg Personal Finance magazine and holds a BA in English from Columbia University.