Financial scammers frequently target the elderly because they perceive them to be more naïve, trusting and lonely than younger victims. Sadly, millions of seniors fall prey to elder financial abuse every year, and in over half the cases their own family members are involved. As an informal caregiver, helping your aging loved one stay vigilant against senior scam tactics is important for their continued health and wellbeing. Here’s what to look for, along with some reliable ways to stop financial fraudsters in their tracks.
Financial Scams that Target the Elderly
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), these are some of the more common financial scams that target the elderly:
- Medicare. The fraudster poses as a Medicare representative to obtain personal information. They then use that information to bill Medicare for fraudulent services so they can pocket the money.
- Funerals. Scammers oftentimes obtain information from obituaries that they then use to extort money from family members or grieving spouses.
- Phone solicitors. 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.
- Sweepstakes/lotteries. This scheme involves contacting a senior by phone or mail to inform them that they’ve won some sort of prize, but 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.
- Internet. Email phishing scams often target seniors, especially since many aren’t tech-savvy. These scams direct them to fake websites under the false premise of updating their bank or credit card information. They can also tricked into downloading fake anti-virus software that allows scammers to access their financial information.
Signs of Financial Elder Abuse
While in your loved one’s home look for these signs of financial elder abuse:
- Unopened mail lying around with magazine subscription bills, sweepstakes notifications, boxes with “free” gifts and other suspicious solicitations.
- Household mortgage, medical or utility bills not getting paid on time even though you know that your senior has enough monthly income to pay them.
- There’s a lack of food and other essential items in the home.
- They suddenly start acting afraid, confused, or look uncharacteristically unkempt.
- A new caregiver, including a family member, is trying to block your access to them.
- You notice unusual withdrawals from their bank account, new names on the account, or frequent ATM or credit card transactions.
How to Protect a Senior from Scammers
Here are some ways to protect your loved one from financial scammers:
- Enroll them in the national “Do Not Call” registry, which should thwart the efforts of most phone solicitors.
- Set them up with direct deposit for their monthly pension and Social Security checks.
- Become a custodian on their bank accounts so that you can monitor transactions.
- Ask them politely not to speak to strangers who come to the door or contact them by phone.
- Insist that they discuss with you first any unsolicited offers for products or services in exchange for money.
- Read all contracts and purchasing agreements over before your senior signs them. If they are hesitant at first, you could mention that there’s been others who have been scammed recently. Tell them that you don’t want it to happen to them.
- Help them shred all non-essential personal documents and financial records.
- Monitor their credit report for signs of suspicious activity through a source like www.annualcreditreport.com.
- You, or someone you trust, can ask your loved one to designate someone they trust as their durable Power-of-Attorney (POA).
Your Trusted Source for Senior Home Care
Finding an in-home caregiver that you can trust isn’t easy. At First In Care, we carefully screen all our team members in advance, including criminal and driving background checks. While serving as an extended family in the home our professionals are trained to identify signs of elder financial abuse so that your loved one can remain safe and comfortable right where they want to be.
We’re a fully licensed and insured home care agency and we use a unique caregiving approach that’s been designed to maintain your loved one’s dignity, self-esteem and independence. For your added convenience all our family trusted services can be individually combined into an affordable package when and where you need them! To learn more about First In Care now, or to speak with a home care advisor about a senior in Manatee County, FL, today please visit us at: www.firstincare.com.