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Memory, Money, and Manipulation: The Silent Epidemic of Scams Targeting Seniors with Dementia





“The Deadly Lottery"


On March 22, 2015, 81-year-old Albert Poland descended the stairs into the basement of his Harriman, Tennessee home, put a pistol to his head, and pulled the trigger. His tragic suicide ended what was a lottery jackpot scam run against him for over four years.


Mr. Poland was a retired hosiery factor manager, ordained deacon, and Sunday school teacher. He and his wife Virginia, of 62 years, had two children and two grandchildren. As he was suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, he became a perfect target for his predator.


It is not known how the Jamaican predator first acquired Mr. Poland’s name and telephone number. His family believes that it was likely from a data breach of his healthcare records.


Beginning in 2011, Albert and Virginia’s phone would ring at least 40 – 50 times per day promising up to $3 million in life-changing lottery winnings. All Mr. Poland needed to do was wire some money: $1,500 for the IRS in taxes, a few hundred for shipping and handling, and other expenses covering travel and miscellaneous fees.


Mr. Poland dreamed about how he would utilize the money to help his family. He would be able to pay off his son’s mortgage and provide economic security for his grandchildren.


However, during a brief period when he became lucid, Mr. Poland went to the police and requested that incoming phone calls from the 876-area code (Jamaica) be blocked.


On another occasion when he went to the post office to send money to Jamaica, a service representative warned him about telephone scams and even provided a brochure on the topic. He walked away without wiring the money. Shortly thereafter, however, he resumed communication with the Jamaican caller and sent another $400 via Western Union.


He was eventually confronted by his son, Chris, who warned him that he was being scammed. The very next day, Mr. Poland took his life. In his suicide note, Albert urged his family not to spend a lot of money on his funeral. He still hoped to be vindicated once his lottery prize arrived.


Following his death, telephone calls from the 786-area code continued to come in daily. On the day of his father’s funeral, Chris decided to pretend to be his father and picked up the phone. The caller confirmed that he had received the $400 that Albert had sent before his death. However, he still needed to send another $1,500. The caller urged him to get into the car and drive to the Western Union office to wire the money while he waited online. When Chris asked where the lottery proceeds would be delivered, the caller stated that during a previous call, he was provided with their home address. As soon as the additional $1,500 was received, the lottery proceeds would arrive directly on his doorstep.”


*****


Over the past several years, Albert Poland was one of the thousands of seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease who fell prey to fraud for one or more of several reasons:

  • Cognitive Impairment: Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are neurodegenerative conditions that lead to significant cognitive impairment. These conditions can affect memory, reasoning, judgment, and the ability to make informed decisions. As a result, individuals with these conditions may struggle to recognize and respond to fraudulent schemes appropriately.

  • Impaired Judgment: People with these conditions often have impaired judgment and decision-making abilities. They may become more easily swayed or influenced by manipulative tactics used by fraudsters, making them more vulnerable to scams.

  • Difficulty Detecting Deception: Individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease may have difficulty detecting signs of deception or recognizing when they are being misled. This can make it challenging for them to identify fraudulent offers or requests.

  • Social Isolation: They experience social isolation due to their condition. This isolation can make them more receptive to any form of social interaction, including interactions with potential scammers who may exploit their vulnerabilities.

  • Lack of Awareness: This can lead to a false sense of security and a greater willingness to engage with potential scammers.

  • Repetitive Behaviors: Scammers may exploit these patterns by repeatedly connecting and deceiving them, as they may be more likely to comply with requests over time.

  • Trust in Others: Fraudsters may take advantage of this trust by impersonating trusted individuals or exploiting existing relationships to manipulate the person into providing money or sensitive information.

To protect individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s from fraud, it is essential for caregivers, family members, and healthcare professionals to be vigilant and proactive. This includes monitoring financial transactions, educating individuals about common scams, setting up safeguards to protect their finances, and providing support to help them make informed decisions. Additionally, legal and financial arrangements, such as power of attorney, can be established to help manage financial matters on their behalf and reduce the risk of financial exploitation.



 

About the Counterintelligence Institute


Founded by former CIA senior intelligence officer Peter Warmka, the Counterintelligence Institute’s mission is to assist your corporations, government offices, academic institutions and non-profit organizations in protecting your sensitive information and personal data records against security breach attempts. Our online and onsite training services focus on transforming the human factor from being the weakest link in security to becoming the most effective defensive tool against security threats against your company and personal life.


 



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