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Elderly Couples' Story Shows That They Aren't the Only Ones Hurt by Elder Fraud

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In the past I've written about elder fraud, where unsuspecting elderly individuals are duped by expert con men into forking over thousands of dollars of their hard-earned money with the promise of big rewards. Obviously, this hurts the elderly that are unknowingly involved in the scam but I recently read an interesting article about how elder fraud can hurt families, too, that are unable to fight back against scammers that prey on elders with mental decline.

The story of Miriam and Charles Parker is devastating. Miriam and Howard worked hard their entire life to provide for their family–including a home that they paid off within 30 years and college educations for their four children. They weren't stupid people either as both Miriam and Howard had several advanced degrees and worked as educators–he worked at North Carolina State University as an English professor and she as a special education teacher. But their lives were completely changed when a man called "Howard Clark" entered the picture. Howard promised Miriam and Charles lavish prizes such as luxury automobiles and large cash rewards if they sent money. Unfortunately, the money and prizes never came although Miriam sent over $600,000 to Clark over a period of several years. Clark was a master manipulator who called Miriam "sweetheart" and spoke to her in a way that made her trust him. It wasn't until Miriam and Charles' four children discovered their parents mounting debt before authorities got involved, and by that time it was nearly too late.

Clark was eventually caught and sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison, but not without much coercion by Miriam and Charles' children and the help of federal authorities. The saddest part of the story is that Miriam and Charles were such willing participants. This was very frustrating to their children, who were flabbergasted that their mother continued to send money wires even during the investigation. However, doctors say that medical impairments such as dementia make elders particularly vulnerable. In addition, older individuals also grew up in an era where most people were trustworthy. Overall, elder fraud costs these individuals $2.6 billion per year and is also sometimes perpetrated by family members, not just strangers.