Allen Ostrofe: Does this sound like “Elder Abuse”? |

Allen Ostrofe: Does this sound like “Elder Abuse”?

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

Two clients from Richmond, Virginia called this week. Let’s call them Bill and Carol. They are in their upper 80s and have had significant health challenges. Until now, they have been borderline financially secure. That means they could pay their bills, leaving not much extra.

In an annual review, we again inquired as to their usage of their four “Timeshares” for which they were paying more than $4,500 in annual fees; a sum they could ill-afford to pay for services they were not using. Over the years we had suggested divesting themselves of any timeshares they were not using — a not-so-easy task.

They shared during this review that they had contacted timeshare sales websites, and their timeshare firm and asked to either sell their shares back, gift them back, or consolidate them in the interest of reducing or eliminating a sizeable annual fee. Bill and Carol further shared that when they called their original timeshare company, they were offered and accepted a “free trip” to Arizona where they were treated like “royalty.” On the third day, Bill and Carol stated that they were taken to a room where they signed a contract to “consolidate their fees.” To their surprise, after signing, a room full of people erupted in applause to their “accomplishment.” There were, of course, some “signing fees,” and the timeshare representative was “kind enough” to open up a new credit card for them to “cover” the costs.

The experience was overwhelming for Bill and Carol. They returned home to catch up on urgently needed cardiology appointments, and forgot about the timeshare “experience.” A few weeks later their new credit card arrived in the mail, with a bill for $50,000. Carol was so noticeably shaken she hid this from her husband out of embarrassment, and feared it might exacerbate his medical condition. They were now well past any potential 30-day “rescission period.” Letters started coming from the timeshare company that they would “foreclose,” and Bill and Carol had nightmares of losing their home. Out of fear and embarrassment, they had refused to share their story with friends, family or professionals, somehow hoping it would “go away.” We are in the midst of helping to unwind this ugly episode for our clients. While this story is true, the names have been changed to protect the truly innocent. This type of scenario happens daily across our country. Elder abuse happens in many ways. It may come from a family member, caregiver, email scam, phone call, etc.

Should you suspect elder abuse, the following resources are available:

— Nevada County Adult Protective Services — 530-265-1639/email:

— Self-Help Center (Nevada County Courthouse)

— Nevada County Lawyer Referral Service — 530-272-5962/email:

— Nevada County Sheriff — 530-265-1471/email:

— Kamala Harris, Attorney General of California — 916-445-9555

— Local professional attorneys

— Federal Bureau of Investigation, San Francisco Division — 415-553-7400/email:

Financial Elder Abuse should be treated similarly to experiencing a medical stroke. If you notice signs from a senior of nervousness talking about recent financial issues, note a significant unexplained drop in a senior’s bank account, or come upon large bills a senior cannot explain, don’t be embarrassed, seek immediate professional help. Be a senior’s advocate. Early recognition of elder abuse is just one important part of a successful “Financial Life Plan.”

Allen Ostrofe, MBA, CFP®, Accredited Investment Fiduciary® is President of Ostrofe Financial Consultants, Inc., a S.E.C. Fee-based Registered Investment Advisor. Securities and Advisory Services offered through National Planning Corporation (NPC), member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Advisor. Ostrofe Financial and NPC are separate and unrelated companies. For questions or suggestions, visit Branch address: 565 Brunswick Road, Ste. 15, Grass Valley.

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