Forbes Writer Ashlea Ebeling recently brought a very important topic to light with the help of John O. McManus and one of his clients: elder financial abuse. In her new article “Inside A Lottery Scam,” Ebeling tells the harrowing story of a McManus & Associates client, who – in her 90’s – was targeted strategically and relentlessly by unscrupulous phone fraud. From the piece:
“There was a man who was very friendly, very charming.” So begins the tale of a socialite widow from New Jersey horse country who lost nearly $1 million in a lottery scam. Call her Penny. She’s ashamed. “I can’t believe I was so ignorant; nobody can condemn me more than I do myself,” she told me on the line with her lawyer, John O. McManus of New Providence, N.J. “What’s funny is I’m a penny picker-upper; when I think of the amount of money that I gave away to an unknown person, it’s unbelievable,” she says.
How did the scammer convince Penny to part with a lot more than just pennies? “If she sent money, the caller said, she would have a chance to win big.” She started sending checks in hopes of hitting the sweepstakes jackpot, which would give her more money to make a big impact on the community by setting up a charitable foundation to honor her husband and carry on their family tradition of giving.
McManus & Associates was handling the administration of Penny’s late husband’s estate when a representative from Peapack-Gladstone Bank called to say there were suspicious transfers going from Penny to someone in North Carolina for various large amounts. From the story:
When McManus, her accountant, and a representative from the bank questioned Penny, she was tight-lipped. The other banks—worried that she would take her money elsewhere–wouldn’t take a stand. She had threatened to close the accounts…Only when the police came to Penny’s house and told her they confirmed that someone was committing fraud, did she tell the caller to stop.
Elder financial abuse is a widespread problem, with fraudsters stealing billions of dollars from seniors every year. However, planning can protect you and your family, the way that Penny is now protected with the help of McManus & Associates. From the Forbes write-up:
The solution in her case: McManus helped her set up a revocable trust, with Penny and his firm as co-trustees, and her accountant as a backstop. The idea is that the banks now have an excuse to reach out to McManus and not feel they’re in a compromised position of betraying their customer. “We as a firm have become far more paternalistic,” he says.
A revocable trust can be set up at any time, and you can name a trusted relative or friend as co-trustee. A simpler option is to authorize someone you trust as an emergency contact on your financial accounts should something seem amiss. And consider granting that someone you trust “view-only access” to your accounts.
McManus teamed up with Ebeling and Forbes to help others avoid Penny’s pain:
“What we’re trying to do is send a cautionary tale to your mom, my mom, Penny’s friends and their children,” McManus says, adding, “Here is an extreme example to warn those who think it just can’t happen to their family.”
To read more details on the financial elder abuse case in which Penny was a target, read Ebeling’s full Forbes story here. For help setting up a revocable trust to protect your loved ones, contact McManus & Associates at 908-898-0100.