Elderly care is essential for your aging parents for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons why elderly care is so important is that identity thieves and scammers often target seniors who don’t have anyone supporting them on a day-to-day basis. As a caregiver it is important for you to know how to protect your aging family members from scams and identity theft.
What types of scams and identity theft target the elderly? Some of the most common include:
- Identity theft
- Telemarketing scams
- Internet fraud
- Reverse mortgage scams
- Lottery/prize scams
- Investment scams
- Funeral/cemetery scams
- Health insurance and Medicare scams
- Counterfeit prescriptions
And this is only a small sample of the many ways in which ill-intentioned people will attempt to take advantage of your aging parents. What can you do about it? Here are 5 actions you and your parents can take to avoid falling victim to scams and identity theft — as well as information on how in-home elderly care can help prevent such scams.
5 Ways to Avoid Scams and Identity Theft
1. Shred Everything
The first step is to buy a crosscut shredder. Sadly, criminals will go through waste to find documents and other information that can be used to steal from your aging parents.
A crosscut shredder makes it nearly impossible for anyone to go through your parents’ trash and find anything of use in scamming them. Make sure that credit card solicitations, bank statements, receipts and anything else with sensitive information first goes into the crosscut shredder before going out to the curb.
2. Watch Your Credit Cards Carefully
Many would-be scammers will use credit card skimmers to quickly steal credit card numbers for later use. So encourage your parents to pay cash at restaurants and anywhere else where a waiter or someone else could conceivably be alone with a credit for any period of time.
As a rule of thumb, it’s better for aging parents to have fewer credit cards — not more. The more credit cards aging parents have, the larger a target they can be for scams and identity theft. So encourage them to get rid of rarely used credit cards.
Watch credit cards closely, and also do everything possible to protect driver’s licenses, social security cards and anything else that includes important numbers or personal information that an identity thief or scammer could use against your aging parents.
3. Never Share Information With Strangers
There are two ways that identity thieves and scammers attempt to get information directly from aging parents: 1) over the phone, and 2) via unsolicited home visits.
Make sure your aging parents understand that they should never give out personal information, much less credit card numbers, to anyone over the phone or anyone who makes an unsolicited visit to the home.
These types of criminals are very savvy. They know just what to say to get a senior to divulge personal information. They also use the unexpected nature of an unsolicited phone call or home visit to confuse their targets and get the information they want before the victim even realizes what happened.
So focus on creating a simple policy with your parents: If someone calls or visits unexpectedly, never give them any information. Instead, ask to see something in writing that you and/or your parents can look at, evaluate and respond to.
4. Mail Directly at the Post Office
Identity thieves and scammers love to attack the mailbox. They have no qualms about looking through mail delivered to your parents’ home, and they have no hesitation about snagging outgoing mail before it’s picked up.
There’s not much you can do about the theft of delivered mail — except sign up for paperless delivery with banks and other businesses and organizations that are sending sensitive information. But there is something you can do about outgoing mail — put it directly in the hands of your postman, or put it in a mail drop box.
5. Beware of Strangers — And Loved Ones, Too
Your aging parents should always beware strangers — not just those who might call or visit the house unsolicited, but strangers in any walk of life. Seniors, sadly, are targets for all sorts of criminals who are looking to take advantage of someone for their own gain. The elderly should beware of strangers, but they should also be leery of family members who suddenly become interested in their finances.
Seniors can still trust their families, of course. It’s just that important decisions are best made by groups of loved ones, which helps prevent a single family member from taking advantage of an elderly parent or grandparent without anyone else noticing.
What if it’s Too Late?
Financial abuse is always a real threat when you provide elderly care to an aging parent. And financial abuse can sometimes happen even when you’re being vigilant as a caretaker for your parents.
Here are financial abuse warning signs to keep an eye on:
- Your aging parents suddenly seems scared, confused or unkempt
- Their bills (medical bills, mortgage payments, utilities, etc.) are going unpaid even though they should have plenty of income
- The caregiver of your parent isn’t allowing access
- Your aging parents’ accounts suddenly show unusual withdrawals or new people authorized to use them
- Their mailbox is full of magazine subscription solicitations, free-gift mailings and sweepstakes notices — all of which indicate your parents are on a list that’s targeting seniors
Keep Your Aging Parents Safe
If you find that your elderly parent has been victimized by scams or identity theft, get in touch with banks, credit card companies and any other related organizations to see how they can help. In many cases, these institutions have processes in place that can help restore anything that’s been lost.
And you can also get your parent in-home elderly care that is focused on keeping them safe from scams and identity theft. At First In Care, we provide care at home for seniors in Bradenton, Anna Maria, Lakewood Ranch, Palmetto and surrounding communities. When your aging parents need elderly care, you can trust the team you’ll find at First In Care.