We just read a brand new article on the Money website of CNN that is both shocking and deeply frustrating. It describes a mammoth case of fraud that has been victimizing gullible people, most of them seniors, for more than 20 years. CNN is devoting several weeks to investigating this fraud, which experts claim may have raked in more than $200 million, with much of that haul coming from aging seniors, many with dementia. No one knows how many victims have fallen prey to this scheme.
If you are involved in the affairs of an aging parent, loved one or friend, you need to know about the dangers of frauds such as this. We encourage you to go to CNN and read the first article in the series here.
This particular fraud involves a so-called psychic, a woman allegedly from France named Marie Duval. Whether she is real or concocted, she is believed to be the face behind one of the longest-running scams in history. According to CNN, Duval’s victims are often lured in by ads in newspapers and magazines. As CNN reports, “These ads sometimes don’t mention Duval’s name at all. Instead they ask readers to send in everything from their zodiac sign and time of birth to their marital status — all under the guise of a research study where they could end up winning large amounts of money.”
Once scammers have this type of data, they can send phony letters signed by Duval which appear to have “psychic” insight into some basic personal data. Duval then asks recipients to send small amounts of money in order to receive lucky charms or other allegedly supernatural items. “All they need to do is pay a small sum — often around $40 — to receive her guidance, lucky numbers and special talismans like a Five Forces Stone or a Vibratory Crystal,” says the CNN report.
Over time those sucked into the scheme send more and more money to Duval or her accomplices. One woman described in the CNN report said her aging mother had promised not to send Duval any more money, only to start secretly setting aside money for the phony psychic. “Even after her mother promised to stop sending in more payments, Stevens found an envelope stuffed with cash and change that she had been hiding, hoping to send to her ‘friend’ Maria.”
Caregivers and others who are close to parents and loved ones in their senior years need to be particularly vigilant. Your Mom or Dad, out of a sense of naiveté or desperation, may be drawn into one of thousands of scams that prey on the elderly. The sad story of Maria Duval may be the largest such scam in recent memory but it certainly isn’t the only one. If you suspect your parent or loved one may be in the clutches of a scammer, you will need to confront your loved one and possibly alert the postal service or other authorities.
You can also contact our office if you suspect this type of fraud, and we will do our best to advise you.
This issue of fraud against seniors brings to mind the importance of having all your own legal affairs in order as you prepare for your retirement years. Legal preparation is just one of the areas we cover in our LifePlanning Seminars, held frequently throughout the area. These free seminars will provide invaluable help to you, just as they have to thousands, starting you on the road to a comprehensive retirement plan that will help you safeguard your assets and maintain your independence as long as possible.
Simply click on the Upcoming Events tab for the list of LifePlanning Seminars now on the calendar. We’ll look forward to meeting you soon!
(originally reported at http://money.cnn.com)