Protecting them from falling victim to scams: How to approach that financial conversation with your aging relatives

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- There's been a ghastly car accident in another country, and the people who were killed are related to you. It turns out, they're loaded -- and you must claim the money before the government takes it all. Before you laugh, it's important to realize some people -- especially your aging parents, might believe a story like this.

"He wanted to know what bank I am using and stuff like that and how old I am and stuff like that and I told him it was none of his business and I hung up," Erna Nelson said.

Nelson is a smart one. She came from Austria in 1947, and now lives at the Library Square Senior Community. When she got a letter saying some distant relatives had died in a crash in Spain, and they had left her part of $26 million, she called FOX6's Contact 6 immediately.

"I think they target any senior without necessarily knowing what their resources are. I have seen it pretty widespread. I feel it is part of my responsibility to make our public aware of things like this that our residents may fall victim to. It is part of our job to do that education," Connie Knapp, the executive director of Library Square said.

It's not an easy job.

For more than 40 years, Contact 6 has been making you aware of these fake offers, and they're not just asking you to apply for some found inheritance or international lottery. Sometimes the scammers call saying they're with the IRS or Microsoft, or even your bank, and they need your information.

"The one guy tested me on the telephone at least three times -- when I am going to go and start giving information and for number one, I don`t give information to anyone. Period," Nelson said.

It's great advice that unfortunately, some people don't hear. As we get older, we often let our guard down.

David Hoover is the president of Armistead Worldwide. His company helps families by managing and paying their bills. It is a service often needed when it comes to aging parents, and Hoover knows it can be a tricky transition.

"We've grown up with our parents looking over our affairs and asking questions -- not the other way around. It can be a difficult topic to open even with your folks," Hoover said.

You might not know your loved ones have been taken in a scam until it's too late.

To start the financial conversation, Hoover says you should approach it by asking for advice -- maybe about mail offers or charitable giving.

"You know, 'Mom how did you handle that when you were our age?' or 'Dad how are you handling that now? Has that changed as you've gotten older?'" Hoover said.

Also -- look for signs that your loved ones aren't handling their person affairs. Perhaps their house isn't as tidy, or they're not making meals like they used to.

"Sometimes that leaves them susceptible to people who want them to empty out the bank account as well," Hoover said.

Nelson says she won't be one of those people, and she doesn't want others to fall victim either.

"I hope that maybe when you get that on the news -- the people do watch television. You  know, they wise up," Nelson said.