Recently, we were the intended victims of an unsuccessful attempt in one of the crudest, but, arguably, boldest, species of the many-faceted deceitful iterations, of what we have contextually, termed, “The Grandma Grift.” In simple terms, our general concept describes the pernicious act of preying upon the elderly, with false and deceitful representations, presumably, upon the arrogant and immoral assumption that, being elderly and presumably, infirm, they are easy marks for deception. In our case, the landline phone rang and following our customarily, reserved, response of “Hello,” the young grifter stated, “Hello Grandpa.” Had we responded in presumably, predictable fashion, with something like, “Hi, is this Jordy?” the errant caller would have thereby, obtained his desired and malicious, entre to a false, communicative, intimacy; predictably, followed by a scripted conversation, the concluding, and intended, portion of which would be a request for monetary help. In this case, the wary, old fish did not bite. We, shortly thereafter, were surprised to read in an AARP pamphlet, that this primitive swindle, is widespread and, often successful. In the interest of literary propriety, we will refrain from comment on our perceived persona of these young grifters.
We are especially outraged, by the more sophisticated, and deceitful, offers of “beneficial” transactions, touted to senior citizens, in the areas of finance, life insurance, and real estate. These misleading, and essentially false, representations, broadcast on television by well-known, attractive, show business celebrities, pseudo-doctors and “experts.” Unlike the miscreant defrauders who perpetrate their crude swindles by telephone, the sophisticated, televised offers of “snake oil” panaceas and monetary enrichment, purport to intimately, disclose to the (presumed vulnerable) elders, the inside, (actually, “insidious”) wisdom, in the context of a faux pretention of a dedicated and informed desire to be of empathic service. Some of the most egregious targeted, deceit, perpetrated on public television, occurs in the areas of life insurance, and real estate ownership.
[Life Insurance] The offer, on the part of insurance companies, to repurchase, long- existing, policies of life insurance, from the insured senior citizen, is touted as a pragmatically, facile mode, for the latter, to obtain needed finances. The solicitation, itself, is tactically, scripted, in positive, convincing, language, delivered by a convincing, well-known show business, or talk show celebrity, in a neighborly and intimate context. The consumer is emphatically, “reminded” that he is “sitting on an unused, pot of gold,” and thereby, can free himself of the oppression of current financial concerns, too often the worrisome, plight of the senior citizen.
It is known that insurance companies calculate their premiums actuarially, i.e., based upon the statistical life expectancy of the prospective insured; moneys, not dedicated to its contractual payment are, profitably, invested in mortgages, real estate and other “legal,” investments. With regard to the individual insured, as stated, the amount of his respective, premium, is calculated upon various personal factors, the most salient, being age. The younger the applicant, the less probable, his imminent death, and, the longer (and greater) the anticipated period (amount) of premium payments. It is empirically, obvious that older, long-time policyholders, having, over the years, paid substantial sums in premiums, and being further along in age, are actuarially (predictably), nearer to their date of decease;, the event obligating the insurer’s payment of the face amount of the policy to the designated, beneficiary. The return to the insured, of, a calculated, formulaic, portion of the substantial total of the insured’s paid, premiums and the cancellation of the, imminently due, death benefit (to the beneficiary) is, at the same time an unjustified, bonanza for the insurance company, and a relatively, modest financial benefit to the needy, policyholder.
For the purposes of clarity, and emphasis, we choose to restate the inequitable fact, that the insurer, after having received many years of premium payment, calculated upon the actuarial date of death (the older the insured, the greater the premium payment) and, having earned profits, from the investment of such cost-free source of investment capital (premiums), can thus, profitably, avoid its contracted obligation to pay the face amount of the policy to the hapless, beneficiary, for whom the policy proceeds, were intended. The offer of this avenue of financing is, wisely, avoided, except in cases of ultimate desperation.
[Insurance] Another, misleading, elder- grift, in the context of life insurance, which we would descriptively, term, deceitful, solicitation, (by partial and misleading information), is as follows: The stereotypic, handsome, smiling presenter, affably, offers “life insurance” at the identical, non-cancellable, relatively, modest premium, “regardless of age or state of health;” but deceitfully, omits to reveal the relevant amount(s) of insurance coverage, to the insured, available for such uniform and modest premium. We would, doubt that the amount of insurance, respectively, purchased by a prospective insured, is not, by sheer business and arithmetic necessity, in some fashion, calculated upon the nuances of age and state of health. The solicitation is an obvious, elder-grift, known as a “come on.” Misleading, “loss leaders,” deemed, permissible, in the sale of foods at supermarkets, are not acceptable in the sales of insurance.
[Real Estate] Lately, there seems to be a bit of a lull, in the advertisement and solicitation to elder homeowners, of the purported financial benefits of the “Reverse Mortgage;” qualitatively, termed by us, as the “Perverse Mortgage,” due to the policies of general non-disclosure, by lending institutions and the consequential misunderstanding, of its compliant responsibilities by the prospective, borrower,
The ownership of residential real estate, the “home,” exists, for many people, as the most substantial financial asset, in their lifetime portfolio. Conceivably, as significant, is the fact that, nostalgically, it has been the mise-en-scene, for their lifetime, family drama.
The lure of the reverse mortgage is the empirical, discomfort of modest, periodic income, following retirement, which makes the life of the elderly (retiree) worrisome and difficult, and, correspondingly, the advertised, lure of the reverse mortgage attractive and compelling.
This alternately, dynamic vehicle of financing is labeled, “reverse mortgage,” since the loan is granted by the financial institution against the calculated equity (the value of the realty, after subtracting the value, as applicable, of its recorded mortgage obligation. It is available to individuals over the age of 62 and its perceived virtue consists of the ability of the cash-strapped owner(s) to remain in the home, without the obligation to make monthly remissions of mortgage payments. Naturally, the amount of monetary, cost, charged against their assigned equity, grows larger, as time passes. Nevertheless, the salient, feature is the ability to continue living in the house, without the financial obligation to make monthly, mortgage payments.
However, there exist mandatory, financial and personal responsibilities and inflexible, limitations, concomitant with this avenue of financing, to be aware of, and carefully considered, prior to application. An unfortunate matter, related to us by an old friend, demonstrates that proper diligence and attention to detail is, essential. A surviving spouse, invited her emotionally challenged, sister- in law to live with her in her home, for reasons of compassion and personal company. The two lived together, until the owner of the home, who was the surviving, mortgagee under a reverse mortgage, suddenly took ill and died. The emotionally. handicapped sister-in-law was thereafter, rendered homeless since reverse mortgages provide for cancellation and sale when the mortgagee (owner) sells the premises or dies.
Additional points for consideration are the age requirement, 62, unusually high closing fees, and, notably, the continuing obligation of the mortgagee-owner to pay for the real estate taxes, insurance, repair, and upkeep. When the title owner dies or moves, the mortgage is terminated and the balance of the unused, pledged equity, if any, paid to the mortgagee less the selling and closing costs.
Should an owner of real estate, fully aware of the above requirements, nevertheless, find it acceptable, to apply for an equity reverse mortgage, we would recommend, as an initially, prudent matter, that he obtain an independent appraisal from an independent and trustworthy broker.
We intend, in the near future, to write on the subject of “snake oil” medicine, similarly, designed to scam older citizens, but, simply, could not defer comment on the pharmaceutical products, touted as a panacea for memory loss, due to aging. Some of the advertisements make a point of boasting (?) that their product is derived, from jellyfish. We have taken the time to investigate the subject with various doctors from N.Y. Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, who have, advised, that, there seems to be no proof, whatever, of the media representations. We are obliged, under the circumstances, to assume that the advertised, effective, result, was attained, by scientifically, deduced conclusion, based, upon the total inability of medical researchers to locate any medically, recorded cases of senile dementia, in jellyfish.