Millions of older Americans are victimized by financial elder abuse each year. Financial scammers frequently target seniors because they perceive them to be more naïve, trusting, and lonely than younger victims. In over half the cases, the victim’s own family members are involved. If protecting your elderly loved one from financial fraud is a priority, taking these steps will help ensure that their retirement nest egg remains intact.
Examples of Financial Elder Abuse
Financial elder abuse occurs whenever someone takes money or property from a senior without their knowledge, understanding, or consent. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), seniors are most often targeted by these financial scams:
- Phone solicitations. As the most common type of fraud, phone scammers posing as a family member in distress or fake charity try to persuade seniors to send them money.
- Medicare fraud. The fraudster poses as a Medicare representative to obtain personal information. That information is then used to bill Medicare for fraudulent services so they can pocket the money.
- Phishing scams. Since many seniors aren’t tech-savvy, they often fall victim to email phishing scams that direct them to fake websites under the false premise of updating their bank or credit card information.
- Funeral “crashers.” Scammers often obtain information from obituaries that they then use to extort money from family members or grieving spouses.
- Fake sweepstakes/lotteries. This scheme involves contacting a senior by phone or mail to inform them that they’ve won some sort of prize. However, to get that prize they must first pay a fee. The fraudster then sends a fake check to the victim because they know it will take several days for the bank to reject it.
Financial Fraud-Prevention Tips for the Elderly
As an informal caregiver here are five ways to protect your aging loved one from scam artists:
Know the signs
While in the home, be watchful of fraud warning signs like bills not getting paid on time, piles of unopened sweepstakes notifications, or a lack of food and other household essentials. Is your loved one suddenly acting afraid or confused? Have you noticed any unusual withdrawals from their bank account, new names on the account, or frequent credit card or ATM transactions? Is a new caregiver, including a family member, trying to block your access to them?
Get a paper shredder
If your loved one is like most, they probably have tax returns and bank statements that are older than you are. Those personal documents contain sensitive information that can easily fall into the wrong hands. Get a paper shredder and then help them destroy all non-essential personal documents and financial records.
Review all contracts first
Read all contracts and purchasing agreements over before your senior signs them. If they resist, mention that how common scams are and that you don’t want it to happen to them. Ask them politely not to speak to strangers who show up unannounced at their door or contact them by phone or email. As an additional precaution, enroll your loved one in the national “Do Not Call” registry.
Set up direct deposit
Another tactic of financial scammers is stealing pension and Social Security checks right out of a senior’s mailbox. To prevent that from happening, help your senior set up direct deposit for all their monthly income checks.
Monitor banking transactions
Becoming a custodian on your senior’s bank and credit card accounts will allow you to monitor all transactions and identify those that seem suspicious. If you “smell a rat,” obtain a copy of their credit report through an online source like www.annualcreditreport.com. Whether it’s you or someone else, encourage your loved one to designate someone as their durable Power-of-Attorney (POA) for financial matters.
An Extended Family in Your Loved One’s Home
Protecting an elderly loved one from financial fraud isn’t easy when you’re not there all the time. When you need some in-home assistance contact Dependable Senior Care. As a fully licensed and insured agency, our experienced caregivers are well-trained, thoroughly screened, and carefully selected. We provide personalized services that are available 7 days a week, ranging from a few hours per day to 24-hour and live-in care.
DSC is locally owned and operated by healthcare professionals with 80+ years of combined experience. Our goal is to provide in-home daily living assistance services that support seniors and their families in South Florida. Those amenities include personal care, respite care, companionship care, nursing assistance, and Alzheimer’s and dementia care. To contact a Dependable Senior Care office in Palm Beach, Miami Dade, or Broward County today or to schedule a consultation for a senior now, please visit us at www.dependableseniorcare.com!