Ask the Attorney

Question: My Mother has been giving money to people who have been calling her on the phone. They tell her that she won the lottery. We have tried to convince her that it is a scam but she won’t listen. What can we do?

Answer: She is not the only one that is falling victim to these scams. The scammers are very good at what they do; that’s how they get money from people they don’t even know. They usually will take advantage of older people by becoming their “friend.” When some people get older their lives become more and more secluded. They don’t have people to talk to and their kids don’t really listen any longer. The scammer knows this and listens very well when they talk on the phone. The scammer makes sure to show an interest in the older person’s life. They become “close.” The older person won’t believe they are being scammed because they feel they have a close personal relationship with this nice person that calls them every day.

You may have to file for conservatorship for your Mother. A conservatorship is a legal proceeding where the court will determine if your Mother is still able to manage her own finances. If the court determines she cannot, then the court will take away her legal right to do so. This means she can no longer take money out of bank accounts, write checks, etc. She will lose the ability to give the scammers any additional money. A conservator will be appointed by the court to manage your Mother’s assets.

I would suggest you talk to an attorney who handles guardianships and conservatorships before your Mother ends up giving her entire life’s savings to these scammers. The sad thing is, even if they find out who the scammer is they can’t do anything as they are usually outside of the United States.

Michael B. Walling is an Elder Law & Estate Planning attorney with an advanced Master of Laws degree. He manages the Elder Law Center and law firm of Michael B. Walling, PLC. He has offices in Battle Creek and Portage, Michigan. Mr. Walling is also a Part-Time Professor at Western Michigan University.

This column is intended for general information purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice to any particular person.