A black widow scam artist can be a stranger or he might even be a former acquaintance – an old classmate or colleague, for example. According to Weston’s article, elder law experts say black widow thieves may take advantage of a single opportunity to get rich, or the con artist may be a repeat offender – a calculating criminal that is capable of doing anything to get the money he wants. Shown below is a general idea of how black widow thieves operate.
A stranger (or acquaintance from the past) grabs an opportunity and casually introduces himself to the elderly person. The thief might even pose as a widow or widower to hook the interest and compassion of the victim. A professional thief knows his victim’s background, weaknesses, and medical ailments. He has already done his homework and he knows there is money to be had.
As the “relationship” builds, the thief offhandedly begins to ask personal questions – in a charming way, of course – about family, finances, and who manages the accounts. If there is a caregiver or family member keeping tabs on the finances, then the thief may gently suggest that it’s not wise to allow someone else to be in control, and that the money is “not theirs.”
The thief usually pretends to be in love. That much established, he’ll do whatever it takes, claiming he has proof that the elderly person is being robbed by his/her family. He may even provide phony paperwork, fake bank statements, and he may present photos of the family shopping at the mall or supposedly spending (the victim’s) money in some other lavish way.
The thief finally convinces the elderly person that he or she needs to cut ties with meddling family members. He suggests the two of them should live together as a couple.
Swayed by romance and convinced the new lover may be right, the elderly person complies. It’s only a matter of time before the senior’s savings and assets are depleted by the con artist. Once the money is gone, so is the thief.
Romance has a way of clouding or distorting a person’s judgment, no matter what the age. Family members and/or caregivers should be prepared for resistance from their aging loved one when suspicions or accusations of fraud and wrongdoing are put out in the open. If the elderly person stubbornly refuses to believe he or she is being victimized, then the family caregiver may have no recourse than to petition for conservatorship to protect the elderly loved one’s money and assets. Unfortunately, this can be a rough undertaking and the court process is both lengthy and emotional.
Family members can fight back against black widows, but most are professionals at what they do. A black widow con artist may be very hard to expose until caught red-handed. Senior citizens, family, friends, and caregivers are urged to watch for clues that may point to a black widow scam and report concerns immediately before it’s too late.
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