Need advice--stop elderly from doing something stupid/dangerous re: foreign travel

So a close friend has asked me for some advice on dealing with an older adult in her family, and I don’t know what to tell her.

Her relative (let’s call him Louis) is 70-something, widower, no kids, generally decent health, independent, and not obviously nuts. He lives alone, takes care of himself, not wealthy but reasonably comfortable. He’s got only one blind spot (let’s call her Maggie).

Maggie called him up one day three or four years ago out of the blue to tell him he’d won a fabulous prize package – tens of millions of dollars, brand new car, wonderful stuff. He just needed to pay some tax or fee to have all the wealth he’d always deserved. So he paid, and paid, and paid, and of course never got his prize. She took him for probably $50K, but he never stopped believing. Then she “quit her job at the prize company in disgust at the way he’d been treated,” but she’s still trying to help him get this prize package he won. :dubious: Now he’s sending her money to support herself while she looks for other work. Louis has convinced himself that he has a personal and maybe romantic relationship with this woman he’s never met but talks to multiple times a day. No amount of arguing will convince him he’s been scammed, and he will not talk to the police, adult protective services, or any other agency.

Now, he’s decided to go visit Maggie. He’s never had a passport in his life, but he just applied and is talking about flying down to see her as soon as he receives it. (He’s in the midwestern U.S.; she’s in another country in the Caribbean basin.)

Louis is not legally incompetent. He’s not incapable of caring for himself, he’s not an imminent danger to himself, he does not have any diagnosed dementia, and there’s no obvious grounds for seeking conservatorship/guardianship. Aside from this one blind spot, he’s a reasonably normal and healthy older adult.

However, on foreign soil in the company of a scamming criminal and whatever lowlifes she hangs out with, he’d probably be a sitting duck, and he cannot or will not acknowledge any possible danger. My guess is nobody would ever hear from him again; my friend figures he’s be bullied into becoming a drug mule or the like. In any event, it’s not a safe situation, but how do you stop an adult from doing something stupid?

Anybody have any ideas or words of wisdom? I’m afraid there’s not really anything any of his family can do until Louis gets himself into major trouble, but I said I’d ask. Thank you for reading this.

For a bit of background research, read this earlier thread, in which choie watches and blogs as her neighbor gets “plucked like a chicken” (choie’s words in Post #50).

Suggest that someone else protectively accompany him on his trip to the Caribbean. The sooner he gets there and discovers that it is a scam, the better. Then he can get on with his life.

I hadn’t seen that particular one, but I’ve seen so many stories similar to that. The people who pull these scams deserve to be in Gitmo–I think they’ve caused more trouble and more heartache than most of the people already there.

Unfortunately, not really an option. I think a good chunk of the reason he’s fallen so hard for this scam is that he’s lonely, with few friends or relatives left (and nobody who would be much protection if he ends up where I think he’ll end up). The State Dept’s webpages for the relevant country notes that scammers therein have lured their victims to locations there, and such invitations can result in becoming the victim of violent crimes, including armed robbery and kidnapping for ransom. The fear isn’t that he is going to be disillusioned; it’s that he might be hurt or killed.

Why would they harm the gander that’s laying the golden eggs?

My $50 is on “something comes up so that Maggie can’t meet up with him while he’s there, but it wasn’t her fault,” and that a few thousand dollars will help Maggie out of her plight so that they can be together next time.

Perhaps your friend should talk to an estate lawyer and see about getting financial power of attorney. He may be able to take care of himself, but it’s pretty clear that this is a scam and I would guess a judge would see it that way as well.

Maybe there’s some way she could intervene to prevent the passport from being granted. Call the passport office and explain the situation. I’m not sure if they’ll be able to do anything unless your friend has some sort of legal standing to make those decisions, but it might be worth a try.

He’s definitely putting himself in a very dangerous situation traveling down there. He may get kidnapped and then your friend will get a call to send his ransom to get him freed.

This ’ Maggie’ could very well be a man , I hope someone can stop the guy from putting himself in great danger .

Which is precisely why I recommended that he be accompanied by a traveling companion. Would the OP care to disclose what “the relevant country” is?

I would not bet against this possibility. However, my sense is that the scam is moving into the end-game: Maggie is aware that the family is actively trying to prevent further involvement, and if she (assuming she is in fact a she) thinks that there won’t be too many more golden eggs anyway, she or her fellows might try for one last score.

A nephew already has power of attorney, but because it’s a voluntary arrangement, Louis can revoke that POA at any time, and the nephew cannot deny Louis access to his own money. The family talked to a lawyer last year (admittedly before the passport was mentioned), and the lawyer advised that attempting to gain involuntary conservatorship/guardianship was unlikely to be successful. Louis knows what his bills are, his bills are getting paid, he’s not in danger of losing his house, and he is articulate–the judge most likely to hear the request tended to be very cautious absent evidence of imminent harm, and of course a failed attempt would probably make matters worse by driving him away from the family and straight into Maggie’s arms.

I will suggest, however, that she talk to the passport office and maybe even the US Embassy overseas and see if they have any suggestions.

I suppose it will come as no great shock that the relevant country is Jamaica.

The available traveling companions whom he might accept amount to a nephew (mid-40s but wheelchair-bound), a niece (40ish white female), two grandnieces (both in their late teens), and his best friend (pushing 80 and doesn’t believe it is a scam anyway). Any of them might raise the alarm a little bit sooner if he goes missing, but I don’t picture any of them posing any serious obstacle to thugs, nor do I see them being able to talk him out of heading to whatever part of the island Maggie wants him to meet her in. Anybody else who might have been able to exert any real influence over him is unfortunately dead.

I’ll go with him, if he pays my plane fare. He must be able to afford it, if you’re that worried about his being scammed out of his fortune.

Sorry, I was actually looking for some serious advice, not sarcasm.

Sorry you thought it was sasrcasm. I suggested, in good faith, what I thought was a viable solution, and then volunteered to help. I’m retired, I have the time, I’ve never been to Jamaica, I’d love to go.

Have you considered signing off on the whole excursion on one condition?

That condition? That he put his affairs in order before leaving! Where’s the will? Is it up to date? Ownership for the car? Any personal debts to friends that should be settled with the will? Does he want to be buried or cremated? Return the body to USA? Keys to safety deposit box? Keys to the house and car? Outstanding bills and debts? Insurance policy? Etc, etc.

If he’s willing to put these things together, tell him, you’re cool. Tell him you hope you’re wrong, of course, but better safe than sorry!

Who knows? Maybe that will make him think. You can’t stop him, so what have you got to lose?

Take a camera crew and tell them you’re filming the pilot for a reality show about lonely men of a certain age looking for love in the tropics. Call it Blame it on Ocho Rios.

I’m sorry I misinterpreted your offer. However, I thought I made it clear that he’s not looking for advice or suggestions or directions; he knows with absolute certainty that Maggie is true and honest, and therefore anybody suggesting otherwise is obviously wrong and should be disregarded. Further, Louis thinks he should be in charge anyway, and would expect to be the leader in any travel expedition. He doesn’t know you, and even if he didn’t suspect a plant, you would have little or no ability to influence his decisions. If Maggie said not to bring jtur88 along to their meeting, you would not be going to their meeting. You could get a nice vacation on his dime, but I don’t see any other benefits.

Assuming your friend has done her best and failed to convince him it’s a scam, there are realistically only legal choices left: either stay out of it, or start taking steps in conjunction with others in the family to get him declared legally incompetent.

I suppose there’s a 3rd option, which could be very expensive, possibly unproductive, and also at risk of a scam – hire an investigator (or even a hacker?) to pry into Maggie’s background. Even then, there’s no assurance that he will accept whatever evidence turns up.

Have you tried an elder abuse hotline? It’s not exactly uncommon for seniors to get targeted by scammers. I’d think it would be a part of their business to have or be able to direct you to resources to deal with elder scams.

Does he belong to a church with a clergy member that he trusts?
This makes me so sad. In the end there may not be much anyone can do. Sometimes you just can’t save people from themselves.

Given that you pretty much know there is a crime in progress, could you report it to police? I don’t know if they’d do much without a complaint from the victim, but maybe an independent third party telling him it’s a scam might get through to him.

My Mom got taken with the “Won the Lottery” scam about 7 years back. Send money for processing, want to go to church with you as I’m a good Christian etc.

She would not listen to me, her son, nor any of her friends. A social worker worked with us and she was declared financially incompetent and the public administrator took over her finances, but by then what money she had was gone. She ended up in a nursing home for about 6 months before passing away. To the end she was sure that she just needed to pay a little more to get her millions.

I hope your story has a happier ending.