Father in law possible elder scam victim?

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matonplayer
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Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by matonplayer »

my FIL, who is 89, lives with his second wife (79) and his savings are in a trust jointly controlled by he and his eldest daughter (not my wife). We learned this weekend that both my FIL and his wife have been been making "loans" to two local handymen since December, totaling $7K. Nothing has yet been paid back, and there's no documentation to support anything. One check has been written from one of the handymen back to my FIL for $600, with instructions not to cash until March 8.

To me, this is a clear case of scamming the elderly, but the primary goal is to try and get paid back, if it's even possible. My wife and her siblings are prepared to contact the authorities, but I'm suggesting that a lawyer send a demand letter to them first, in the hopes of scaring them into paying the money back.

What do you think they should do?
livesoft
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by livesoft »

It is possible they are doing the same thing to others, so a lawyer letter will not help everybody. OTOH, if the authorities are contacted, nobody may get any money back. So perhaps lawyer letter first, then authorities. Certainly, a lawyer's advice on the matter would not cost much. Perhaps the lawyer would simply say, "Contact the authorities."
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thewizzer
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by thewizzer »

So you are going to pay a lawyer to draft a letter to scare them into paying? How much does this lawyer cost? Is it worth it for $7000?

I don't know where you live, but where I'm from that's what the police do. In fact, I consider it one of my specialties :)

Police can threaten arrest (if appropriate). What's a lawyer going to do?
Gropes & Ray
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by Gropes & Ray »

Merely taking a loan, even if the terms aren't favorable to the lender, isn't a scam. I think you're right to be suspicious, but I wouldn't jump to conclusions.

You will find that collecting on a loan without written proof that the loan existed can be difficult. You could try to get the borrower to admit in a signed writing that he took the loan, perhaps by sending a letter requesting a payment on the loan and having him sign a short note that satisfies your jurisdiction's statute of frauds. Talk to a lawyer about how to do that properly.
thewizzer
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by thewizzer »

Gropes & Ray wrote:Merely taking a loan, even if the terms aren't favorable to the lender, isn't a scam. I think you're right to be suspicious, but I wouldn't jump to conclusions.
You're absolutely correct. There isn't enough information provided to make a decision on whether or not any laws were broken.

My above advice was based on the assumption that the OP's suspicions are correct (which is not always the case). I often have to counsel people that just because someone is elderly, that doesn't mean that they can't lend money or spend it however they choose to spend it.
investor1
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by investor1 »

If they agreed to it, it likely isn't illegal. Sure, report it to the police, but I wouldn't expect them to do much as they typically fill their time with voilent crimes (and traffic tickets). They'll probably just tell you it is a civil matter unless others are reporting something similar about these people.

I think you should focus on getting the money back. Find out the terms of the loan, see if you have any room to tighten those terms, demand the money back as soon as it is due, and take them to small claims court. Then, of course, you'll have to figure out a way to get them to actually pay the judgement.

Maybe after that, send a letter into the local news to try to get the word out if what they did is really outlandish.

Prepare for a long drawn out process...
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matonplayer
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by matonplayer »

Gropes & Ray wrote:Merely taking a loan, even if the terms aren't favorable to the lender, isn't a scam. I think you're right to be suspicious, but I wouldn't jump to conclusions.

You will find that collecting on a loan without written proof that the loan existed can be difficult. You could try to get the borrower to admit in a signed writing that he took the loan, perhaps by sending a letter requesting a payment on the loan and having him sign a short note that satisfies your jurisdiction's statute of frauds. Talk to a lawyer about how to do that properly.

Yup. As I was reading the earlier replies I realized that unless these guys misrepresented themselves in some way to get money, there probably weren't any laws broken. It may be an expensive lesson learned.
retiredjg
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by retiredjg »

Have they asked for help? If not, it might be best to just stay out of it other than advising against other loans.

If they have asked for help, I'd see what happens on March 8 (actually, it will take time to see if the check bounces) before contacting any authorities. Much more may have happened than you posted, but there is nothing in your post to indicate that any illegal activity has actually occurred.

It is unfortunate that the loan is not documented on paper, but small personal loans rarely are. However, the check itself is evidence that there is some kind of financial arrangement between the parties involved.

If possible, take the check to the bank it is written on - they simply won't cash it if the account does not have the funds.
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ResearchMed
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by ResearchMed »

investor1 wrote:If they agreed to it, it likely isn't illegal. Sure, report it to the police, but I wouldn't expect them to do much as they typically fill their time with voilent crimes (and traffic tickets). They'll probably just tell you it is a civil matter unless others are reporting something similar about these people.

I think you should focus on getting the money back. Find out the terms of the loan, see if you have any room to tighten those terms, demand the money back as soon as it is due, and take them to small claims court. Then, of course, you'll have to figure out a way to get them to actually pay the judgement.

Maybe after that, send a letter into the local news to try to get the word out if what they did is really outlandish.

Prepare for a long drawn out process...
I think you should focus on making sure that this doesn't happen *more*, and that they fully understood what they are doing (loan? gift?) and are in fact - this is tricky! - capable of making such decisions.

RM
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Ged
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by Ged »

$7,000 isn't as bad as it could be. Hopefully there isn't a lot more than you don't know about.

I would have a friendly meeting along with grand-dad with the contractors so they know that it's more than just grand-dad who is watching what is going on.

And yes try to get something in writing (ideally drafted by a lawyer) so you can enforce a lien if need be.
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by JW-Retired »

investor1 wrote:If they agreed to it, it likely isn't illegal. Sure, report it to the police, but I wouldn't expect them to do much as they typically fill their time with voilent crimes (and traffic tickets). They'll probably just tell you it is a civil matter unless others are reporting something similar about these people.

I think you should focus on getting the money back. Find out the terms of the loan, see if you have any room to tighten those terms, demand the money back as soon as it is due, and take them to small claims court. Then, of course, you'll have to figure out a way to get them to actually pay the judgement.
Agree, talk to the police. Many years ago, wife had a mysterious disappearance of an heirloom ring. One (of two) possible suspects was a window washer who had recent access to where she typically left it on a dresser. The police talked to him, and very soon after that he showed up at our front door swearing he didn't take the ring. A couple of days later wife found the ring in the flower bed next to the doorstep. :D
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ps: we and the cops both believed the window washer dumped the hot article when he was at the door.
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matonplayer
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by matonplayer »

ResearchMed wrote:
investor1 wrote:If they agreed to it, it likely isn't illegal. Sure, report it to the police, but I wouldn't expect them to do much as they typically fill their time with voilent crimes (and traffic tickets). They'll probably just tell you it is a civil matter unless others are reporting something similar about these people.

I think you should focus on getting the money back. Find out the terms of the loan, see if you have any room to tighten those terms, demand the money back as soon as it is due, and take them to small claims court. Then, of course, you'll have to figure out a way to get them to actually pay the judgement.

Maybe after that, send a letter into the local news to try to get the word out if what they did is really outlandish.

Prepare for a long drawn out process...
I think you should focus on making sure that this doesn't happen *more*, and that they fully understood what they are doing (loan? gift?) and are in fact - this is tricky! - capable of making such decisions.

RM
Agreed. My FIL has no recollection of signing these checks - some of them appear to have been written by the handymen and FIL signed them. He clearly has cognitive issues, and frankly can not afford the loss of several thousand dollars. His second wife has a history of loaning money to _anybody_ that asks.
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by retiredjg »

matonplayer wrote:Agreed. My FIL has no recollection of signing these checks - some of them appear to have been written by the handymen and FIL signed them. He clearly has cognitive issues, and frankly can not afford the loss of several thousand dollars. His second wife has a history of loaning money to _anybody_ that asks.
This is a different scenario from what your original post sounded like.
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matonplayer
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by matonplayer »

retiredjg wrote:
matonplayer wrote:Agreed. My FIL has no recollection of signing these checks - some of them appear to have been written by the handymen and FIL signed them. He clearly has cognitive issues, and frankly can not afford the loss of several thousand dollars. His second wife has a history of loaning money to _anybody_ that asks.
This is a different scenario from what your original post sounded like.
Oh, sorry - didn't mean to imply that there was possible forgery. He definitely signed them - he just doesn't remember doing so due to his dementia.
investor1
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by investor1 »

Maybe it is time to consider having someone else manage his finances without him being able to write his own checks.

Given the update, I doubt you'll see a dime back. You can talk to the handymen and give them a sob story to see if they have any decency, but I wouldn't expect much given they took the money in the first place.
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ResearchMed
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by ResearchMed »

investor1 wrote:Maybe it is time to consider having someone else manage his finances without him being able to write his own checks.

Given the update, I doubt you'll see a dime back. You can talk to the handymen and give them a sob story to see if they have any decency, but I wouldn't expect much given they took the money in the first place.
I don't know.

Is there a state agency for elder protection?

If he is really not competent, and it is obvious, and he didn't write the check, and it seems likely that someone filled it in and handed him "something to sign", that could be elder abuse. Many places now include "financial" acts as well as physical/neglect in this category now.

It might be worth checking out, especially if there are other checks that you locate, to the same or different persons.

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retiredjg
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by retiredjg »

matonplayer wrote:Oh, sorry - didn't mean to imply that there was possible forgery. He definitely signed them - he just doesn't remember doing so due to his dementia.
I didn't take it as forgery. But I don't think we were aware of dementia or decreased cognitive ability. This makes your accusation of possible elder abuse more reasonable and also increases the possibility that criminal activity actually is afoot.

If he does not remember, how do you know the checks were supposed to be a loan rather than a gift? Yes, gifting does seem unlikely, but if a criminal case is to be made, there needs to be something that looks more like a loan than a gift. Again, the repayment check may be evidence of that. Or not.
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by dolphinsaremammals »

You really need to quickly prevent your FIL and his wife from having the ability to write checks or disburse money and expensive items in any way. I am not sure how you can do the latter. I have read about "helpers" helping themselves to silverware, china, jewelry, etc. The daughter who is part controller of the trust seems like the logical person to do this.

Otherwise they are sitting ducks. I would not be surprised to find that more money or belongings are missing.

I would definitely talk to the police for advice and also to the department that deals with elder affairs. I don't expect you will get anything returned, but enough complaints piling up may interest the attorney general. The police may talk to them. You may also be able to get a no contact order, for whatever good that does.
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by downshiftme »

Maybe it is time to consider having someone else manage his finances without him being able to write his own checks.
If these checks were written because the handymen were in the house doing actual work, you may have some leverage to insure payback with whatever state agency licenses their kind of work. But in any case, some tighter controls and limiting the ability of FIL and wife from disbursing their own funds seems in order.
skepticalobserver
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by skepticalobserver »

Unquestionably, you should get in touch with the local prosecutor. Some offices have sections that specialize in elder financial abuse.
Also, social service organizations (like Jewish Social Services-- it's non-sectarian) may offer assistance in these matters with volunteer attorneys.
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by FelixTheCat »

Why isn't the "eldest daughter (not my wife)" monitoring these situations? I figure it's her responsibility since she is on the trust. It's not hard to watch finances with Mint, Quicken, etc. these days.
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ralph124cf
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by ralph124cf »

If the FIL has dementia, then he should not have control of a trust, even partially.

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ResearchMed
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by ResearchMed »

FelixTheCat wrote:Why isn't the "eldest daughter (not my wife)" monitoring these situations? I figure it's her responsibility since she is on the trust. It's not hard to watch finances with Mint, Quicken, etc. these days.
Also, doesn't *she* have some responsibility here if she is on the trust??

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matonplayer
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by matonplayer »

We found out about the checks because the eldest daughter -is- watching things pretty closely. She saw the bank statements and immediately followed up. FIL's dementia has appeared pretty recently and suddenly. She's in the process right now of taking away his paper checks and setting up automatic bill payments for everything she can. FIL is in denial that there is an issue with his mental acuity.

Thanks to all. Very valuable advice.
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ResearchMed
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by ResearchMed »

matonplayer wrote:We found out about the checks because the eldest daughter -is- watching things pretty closely. She saw the bank statements and immediately followed up. FIL's dementia has appeared pretty recently and suddenly. She's in the process right now of taking away his paper checks and setting up automatic bill payments for everything she can. FIL is in denial that there is an issue with his mental acuity.

Thanks to all. Very valuable advice.
This is a very good sign that the situation doesn't have a lot more "yet to be discovered", er, problems.

I'd still recommend speaking with the authorities.

Assuming the so-called loan wasn't quite on the up and up, these folks may be scamming others (and possibly be involved with others who are also doing so).

Good luck with your FIL's medical situation.
That's never easy.

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RunningRad
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by RunningRad »

My father (then 80, now 83) was scammed for $25k in some specious medical durable goods business. He was offered an opportunity to invest because of a referral from a wealthy friend who invested ($100k). He was promised a ridiculous rate of return and probably let his guard down because his friend had already vetted it.

He had already committed when I urged him to back out. He was sure it was legit. I asked him why these successful business people with an iron clad plan to make a lot of money needed his $25k, and he could not provide an explanation, other than that "Joe" was also investing in it with even more money.

Of course, he lost his entire investment in the scheme and promised to never do anything like it again.
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by The Wizard »

These sound like "gifts", not loans, unless you can show me paperwork to the contrary.
Agree with a few others that someone with a durable POA should start handling their finances...
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ResearchMed
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

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The Wizard wrote:These sound like "gifts", not loans, unless you can show me paperwork to the contrary.
Agree with a few others that someone with a durable POA should start handling their finances...
Yes, that could be a problem if the payee claimed such.

However, given that the payee wrote out the check (it seems?) AND if the FIL was very noticeably impaired at the time, again, this becomes elder financial abuse, if not regular fraud.

Thank goodness the DIL *was* indeed doing her job, and not waiting until "whenever" to review the records.
That could be a huge saving grace in this case.

Are the same workmen still "on the job" or returning?

I'd question that next, as well as who does the vetting/hiring in the future.

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SGM
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by SGM »

This is definitely a scam. The workers should not be allowed on the property or to contact the elderly people. Recovery of the cash is most important, but the amounts maybe too low to justify an attorney. Daughter should handle the finances now. An attorney and a physician may need to get involved with a declaration of incompetency. A knowledgeable county social worker could help as this is elder abuse. If they live in a community for the elderly, there may be employed social workers who could help. I would contact the workers unless they are violent types and contact the police.
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by dolphinsaremammals »

The OP says the FIL's dementia came on quickly. Has his doctor been consulted about this - perhaps it is some medication effect/interaction or something that can actually be addressed. This is just a question, mods, not medical advice.
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matonplayer
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Re: Father in law possible elder scam victim?

Post by matonplayer »

dolphinsaremammals wrote:The OP says the FIL's dementia came on quickly. Has his doctor been consulted about this - perhaps it is some medication effect/interaction or something that can actually be addressed. This is just a question, mods, not medical advice.
Interesting question. My FIL and wife spend half of the year in FL the other half in CA. He was diagnosed in CA and that's where his doctor is. They're currently in FL and to my knowledge he has no doctor there. Not a good situation.

To answer a previous question, the way I understand it, these "handymen" had done some work from my FIL's wife in the past but are not currently doing anything on the property. My FIL's wife has also loaned them money. I suspect she "encouraged" him to do the same.
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