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Scammers, thieves and crooks

Probate litigation consists of more than family feuds.  Sadly, I see far too many instances of fraud, exploitation and theft against seniors.  Scam artists often seek out those with diminished capacity, loneliness, a trusting nature, and -- of course --available money.  These cases run the gambit from a stolen checkbook or ATM card to very sophisticated fraud.  Either way, the results can be devastating. 

On December 11, 2008, the SEC formally charged Bernard L. Madoff with running a fraudulent Ponzi scheme of mind-blowing proportions.  You can read the formal SEC Complaint.  The allegations include statements from his employees who said that Madoff took money from investors without actually investing it.  Instead he kept or spent the money, lied to his investors, and took money from one to give to the next. 


In total, the SEC believes he cheated his investors out of 50 billion dollars!  How much of this was taken from seniors?  We don't know yet.  We do know that Madoff's investors were among the extremely wealthy and elite.  Madoff was no common crook.  A prominent Wall Street fixture for decades, he served as the vice chairman of the NASD and sat on the board of governors for the NASDAQ stock market. 

Yet, according to the SEC, that's exactly what he is -- a crook.  How many families will suffer from this fraud?  I'm sure we'll find out in the months to come, and it won't be pretty.

And, no, this doesn't just happen to the rich.  Scammers and conmen target seniors with any amount of money.  So be proactive with your elderly loves!  The best way to deal with a case of exploitation or theft is to prevent it.

I'll share tips in this blog to help.  But if you discover that it has already happened in your family and you were too late to stop it, what do you do?  It's time to call an experienced attorney.  Often, we can help get back some or most of the money.  But the sooner you act, the better chances you have at recovering what was taken.

Posted by:  Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founder and shareholder of The Center for Probate Litigation and The Center for Elder Law in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law.  You can email him at awmayoras @

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