Elder fraud and scams targeting seniors is an ongoing problem that many of our dear seniors are faced with. According to a study conducted by cybersecurity research company Comparitech, more than 330,000 incidents of elder fraud are reported to authorities every year and are responsible for an estimated $46.3 billion in losses. However, these numbers are considered to be conservative because many incidents go unreported.
Elderly individuals are often targeted by scammers because they are seen as vulnerable and more trusting. As a caregiver, it is important to be vigilant and take steps to prevent seniors from becoming victims of fraud and scams. What follows are four real-life examples of how caregivers at First In Care have prevented fraud and scams from happening to their clients.
The Gift Card Scam
One of our caregivers, Elsa, was out shopping with a senior client who wanted to buy $1,000 worth of Apple gift cards. Elsa started to question the client about the purchase and discovered that it was triggered by a phone call the client had received, claiming that her grandson was in danger. Elsa quickly called the office and we reached out to the family to verify the situation. As a result, the client did not fall victim to this scam.
Behind on Your Car Registration?
Another caregiver, Liz, was taking a client to the bank to withdraw a larger-than-normal sum of money. Liz started asking questions and discovered that the client was behind on his car registration and had been told that a representative from the county would come to pick up the money. Liz quickly called the office, and we sent an administrator to the client’s home to ensure that no one came to the house. We also contacted the Sheriff’s Department and the client’s guardian to file a report.
Hang Up and Call Your Caregiver: A Story of Foiling a Computer Scam
During a home visit, a caregiver arrived to find that the client was on the phone with someone who was asking for his credit card information to fix his computer. The caregiver took over the call when she became suspicious that the person on the other end was trying to gain access to the client’s computer. The caregiver then disconnected the computer, hung up the phone, and called the office. We were able to send a reputable IT technician to the client’s home to check the computer for any spyware. Though the client’s personal information had been compromised, the IT technician was able to remove all threats from the computer.
Donating with a Big Heart: When Senior Giving Goes Too Far
Many seniors are kind-hearted and enjoy donating to reputable charities such as Wounded Warrior or St. Jude’s. However, some seniors may not recognize how frequently they are sending money. One of our clients had been sending out envelopes with checks to different charities, with some of the envelopes going to the same charity. The caregiver was smart enough to call the office, and we were able to sit down with the client and her daughter (who was also the power of attorney) to go over the situation. After opening the envelopes, we discovered that the client had written over $500 in checks within a 13-day period. While this was not a scam, it was an eye-opener for our company and the family. The daughter has since intercepted mail and helps her mother make monthly donations to one or two charities at a time.
Most elder fraud experts believe that these crimes can be prevented through careful observation by family members or professional caregivers and by taking these five steps to protect vulnerable seniors:
1. Stay Involved in Their Life
Many seniors feel lonely and isolated, which makes them vulnerable to fraudsters. By having a loved one stay engaged in their lives, seniors are much less likely to respond to contact from people they don’t know, and they’re more likely to tell you about any contact and interaction that has happened.
2. Watch Their Bank Statements
Monthly bank statements are complicated for many seniors, and they disregard them because of it. However, by checking their monthly statement, you can spot suspicious activity. Look for large withdrawals and any unusual ATM activity, particularly if the senior isn’t mobile. You can check statements monthly on the bank’s app or website.
3. Be Aware of New Friends and Romantic Interests
A lonely senior is an excellent target for criminals. Of course, not all new friends are fraudsters but watch for things like their friend taking them to the bank or helping them with financial or estate planning.
Romance scams also continue to be on the rise. You may be unaware of what’s happening since seniors are often shy or uncomfortable discussing romance in their lives. Stay alert and watch what’s happening in your senior’s life – you can often spot observable signs of a new romantic relationship.
4. Be Aware of People Involved in Your Loved One’s Finances
Sadly, elder fraud is often committed by close friends or family members. Because of the trust they’ve established with the senior, they are in a position to handle finances and financially abuse your loved one.
Unethical friends and family members can pressure seniors into giving them large loans or financial gifts. Having a senior change a will is also a commonly used ploy by someone close to them, so beware of any appointments your loved one has already had or scheduled with an attorney.
5. Teach Your Loved One About Online and Social Media Fraud
Many seniors use social media to combat loneliness and isolation. Unfortunately, many of their new “friends” are often located overseas, making them difficult to track.
Emphasize to your senior the danger of connecting online with strangers and how common it is for internet criminals not to be who they say they are. If your loved one starts sending funds via PayPal or begins wiring money through Western Union, step in and check why money is being sent and who is receiving it.
Trustworthy Senior Home Care in Bradenton, FL
First In Care Home Health offers a full menu of services for seniors in Bradenton, Palmetto, Parrish, Ellenton, Oneco, Lakewood Ranch, Longboat Key, Holmes Beach, and Anna Maria Island requiring home care. Our caregivers provide compassionate care, whether it be just a brief check-in visit or around-the-clock care.
Professional caregivers play an important role in preventing fraud and scams from happening to seniors. By being vigilant and questioning unusual purchases or phone calls, caregivers can help protect their clients from falling victim to scams. Caregivers can also work with family members and other professionals to ensure that seniors are not targeted by scammers. By taking these steps to prevent elder fraud and scams, our caregivers have helped their clients maintain their independence and financial security.
Contact us today for dependable home care in Bradenton and Manatee County.