Luke 20:45-47 (ESV) – “And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’”

Wolves are masters of deceit and cunning.  The ones that were most trusted in Jesus’s day were the scribes and the Pharisees.  They were viewed as people of integrity.  But Jesus knew their hearts and their real actions.

One of the things we learned as we cared for Cindie’s mom was that there were wolves in her mailbox and calling her on the phone. Some were people she knew who were seriously failing to serve her and meet her needs with true fiduciary care. As her memory declined, her fears increased. Her ability to judge the validity of some claim or threat or to evaluate the quality of a promise or service was diminished.

The Wolves – How do they enter?

  • Appeals for contributions from the same unethical organizations on a weekly basis. Her mailbox was overflowing.
  • Phone calls from scoundrels claiming to be from the IRS and threatening lawsuits.
  • Warranty scams for her car and her home. The payments were high and the rewards were low.
  • Financial advisers and brokers who were drawing high fees and providing losing returns.
  • Advertising inserts in known publications and mail order catalogs.

The Shepherd’s Approach

Shepherds look for signs that reveal an attack against defenseless sheep. To protect a loved one, you should try to answer the following questions. This may be difficult, but you are to serve as a shepherd if a wolf is attempting to devour. (Also see the Fidelity links at the end of this article for additional questions.)

  1. Who manages your mom’s or dad’s money on a day-to-day basis? Is this a trusted person?  Are bills being paid?
  2. Who has access to the widow’s accounts? Are there any questionable or undocumented withdrawals or expenses?  Has someone asked for a loan?
  3. Are repetitive payments being made to some person or organization you don’t know?
  4. Are assets being depleted in ways that are not understood?
  5. Where are the important and sensitive documents? Who has online access and knows the passwords?
  6. Have you checked the credit reports for your loved one? Are there any mysterious loans or credit card accounts?
  7. Does your loved one mention they are worried about financial decisions or cares?
  8. Has their charitable giving pattern changed in an unexplained way?

How to Help Defend the Sheep

One way that I helped Cindie’s mom was to start to collect her mail (she willingly accepted this help) so that I could determine how to stop the flow.  Because I was POA, some organizations willing ceased their mailings at my request.  Others were not so easily dissuaded because Charlotte had sent them multiple contributions.  Some had no phone number or even a web site. In those cases, we changed her mailing address to our home so that the mail was no longer a temptation to Charlotte.  The wolves lost the battle but only after walking away with well over $1,000 dollars.  I have since learned that this is an epidemic in the lives of the elderly.  Beware of wolves.

Wayne L Winquist

Fidelity and other Resources