Senior Retirees Drain Assets Chasing 'Lottery Winnings'

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Scott Sargent, a financial advisor in Newport Beach, Calif., received a typical request from a client: a withdrawal from his brokerage account. The 81-year-old man needed $15,000 to cover taxes -- on his winnings from a Costa Rican lottery. Sargent told Financial Planning magazine that it was only the beginning of a long, sad story.

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It was the elderly client's first withdrawal in 17 years – and despite the financial advisor's stringent objections – the gentleman was insistent. He had won the lottery and needed to pay the taxes in order to collect $5 million. Reaching out to the client's family, Sargent discovered the senior retiree had already tapped-out other accounts, paying $150,000 to scammers around the world. His brokerage account was all that he had left.

Even though a doctor and an attorney determined that the client was mentally acute, the financial advisor – backed by his firm – refused to disperse the funds. Protecting unsuspecting senior clients from financial predators is a growing concern for families and financial institutions.

The Alzheimer's Association says over five million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease -- 200,000 of which are under the age of 65. By 2050, up to 16 million seniors will have the disease. In addition, frontal lobe dementia, while less common than Alzheimer's, is now believed to account for 10-15% of all dementia cases – and up to half of all cases for those younger than 65. The cell damage caused by frontotemporal dementia (FTD) affects planning, judgment and emotions, among other symptoms. And FTD is difficult to diagnose; there are no tests available -- only a doctor's best guess.

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