Wednesday, April 23 2014, 09:23 AM MDT
Elderly Utahns Lose $1 Million A Day
By Matt Gephardt
Produced by Cindy St. Clair
Photography by Brian Morris and Mike Fessler
Edited by Aaron Colborn
(KUTV) Last year, Don Cain got a call that changed his life. The caller told Don he'd won $3,500,000 but to claim his money, Don first had to pay a few fees.
“I thought we’d be millionaires,” Don said.
The caller was a smooth talking con man who, over the course of several months, convinced Don the send several payments that ultimately added up to over $20,000.
Many people around Don knew he was being scammed. His wife, Velma, begged him not to send any money. Still he did. Velma called the police and the police pleaded with him not to send any more money. Still, he did. Velma also called Get Gephardt and we assured him in the most direct way that he was sending money to a crook. Still he sent more money.
Now, Don says he is embarrassed that he fell for the con man’s lies. He agreed to tell his story to try and help other families from falling into the same trap.
"I don't want this to happen to any other person,” Don said. “This is not right."
It's a story the people at the Utah Division of Aging and Adult Services says they hear all too often.
"What happens is these scam artists are specifically targeting seniors, because they own 70 percent of the nation's assets," says legal services director Jilenne Gunther.
Gunther says that when it comes to ripping off seniors in Utah, the numbers are staggering. A 2010 study titled, The Utah Cost of Financial Exploitation, says up to $1 million per day is stolen from Utah seniors. It's a number that increased by 50 percent from 2008 to 2010.
Gunther offers this advice to anyone who thinks they won it big: "Don’t engage [the scammer]. Shut it down at the very beginning. Shut the door, throw it away, hang-up the phone."
Gunther says she once saw a case in which an individual had been taken for just under a million dollars.
She says when seniors lose their nest egg, it ends up costing taxpayers, because the victims have little choice but to turn to government assistance for help.
Velma says that almost as frustrating as losing the money, was not being able to stop her husband from sending it.
Attorney David York says that there are legal options a loved one can take to get control of someone's finances but it's often difficult to seize control of an account and doing so often takes a lot of time. And he says there are much kinder options. He suggests seniors consider putting their extra money into a joint account, one that takes two signatures to make any large purchases or transactions.
"One thing you can do is to move excess funds into a joint account that requires two signatures,” he said. He suggests perhaps the best person to partner with would be a trusted child. “It makes it so the parent doesn't lose control, but they also need a partner to sign off. By the same token, the child doesn't have total control."
The latter point is important because, according to the report, 57% of money stolen from seniors is stolen by members of that senior’s family.
(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)