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Real cases of senior financial exploitation

Brett Lassoff

Posted on August 30, 2018

Brett Lassoff is a compliance consultant at MassMutual.
White haired older woman sitting with younger woman in nurse's blue blouse

It happens more often than you think:

  • A senior calls her financial professional requesting the withdrawal of a large amount of money from a brokerage account. Her son calls in an hour later to tell the professional that his mother is being scammed into giving money to bail “General Michael Smith” out of jail in Afghanistan. The son says his mother cannot be convinced that she is being scammed and insists on paying the money to ensure the release of the “general.”
  • A woman designated as a senior’s power of attorney calls that senior’s financial professional requesting $60,000 from the senior’s annuity. When the professional asks the reason, the woman states that she’s giving a loan to her son. The woman also indicates that she will need another large disbursement in the future for renovations to her home.
  • A senior calls an insurance company requesting beneficiary change forms for his life insurance policy. He struggles to state his security information and a woman on the phone with him notes he is disabled and she provides his information. When the company representative questions who the beneficiary will be changed to, the woman states that the client wants to change it to her. She identifies herself as his full-time nurse.

These are all real situations that MassMutual has dealt with. And they were all cases of financial exploitation of the senior involved.

The financial exploitation of seniors is a growing problem that affects millions. The average net worth of senior households in the United States is estimated to be over $150,000, amounting to the largest concentration of wealth in the country.1 Individuals over 60 years of age are particular targets for exploitation, as they have an increased likelihood of diminished capacity and need greater support because of age-related impairments. Senior financial exploitation can happen to anyone, from an elderly parent to well-known celebrities, like comic-book legend Stan Lee .

MassMutual is committed to protecting our senior policyowners, but we need the support of family members and friends. Many situations involving our senior customers are brought to our attention by family members who are concerned that their loved one is being financially exploited.

That’s why it is critical that those closest to seniors be on the lookout for possible red flags. Family members or close friends of an elderly person may be in the best position to detect early signs of elderly financial abuse. (Learn more: Protecting your loved ones from elder financial abuse )

If you have any suspicion that your senior family member is the subject of financial exploitation, ensure that you put any financial institutions, MassMutual or otherwise, on notice of the possible abuse. MassMutual has resources to help its policyowners with these situations. You can email with questions.

You can also contact any trusted professionals, like an attorney or accountant for the involved senior, or the local police department if you suspect fraud. In addition, there are state adult protective services agencies charged with protecting elderly and vulnerable adults. You can find information on them here.

Living mutual means we are stronger when we partner together to protect seniors from financial exploitation. And everyone can be part of that effort.

Learn more from MassMutual…

Senior mental fitness: What’s normal and what’s alarming

Senior scams

Talking money with your aging parent


St. Louis Federal Reserve, “Long-Term Household Income and Wealth Gains Favor Older Americans,” Oct. 5, 2017.

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The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to seek advice from your own tax or legal counsel. Opinions expressed by those interviewed are their own, and do not necessarily represent the views of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.