As people get older, they may become more targeted by fraud and scams. This is because scammers view the elderly as more vulnerable, having a trusting nature, and potentially maintaining significant financial resources.
Unfortunately, elderly frauds and scams are quite common, and they can cause significant financial and emotional harm to seniors and their families. Seniors may suffer from cognitive decline, making them more susceptible to fraud schemes. That’s why it’s so essential to help your parents avoid such scams and protect their financial well-being.
Here are some of the common financial scams along with tips on how to protect your aging loved ones from falling victim to fraud.
Common Senior Citizen Scams
Here are some of the most common types of scams targeted at seniors:
- Medicare Scams: Scammers may pose as Medicare representatives and ask for personal information, like Social Security numbers, claiming that they need to verify their identity or update their records. In reality, these con artists are trying to steal your loved one’s identity to commit identify theft or another form of fraud.
- Grandparent Scams: A scammer may call an older adult and pretend to be their grandchild, claiming they are in trouble and need money immediately. The caller may say they need the money to cover bail, hospital bills, or travel expenses. The scammer may ask the older person to wire money or send gift cards, which will then be impossible to trace.
- Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams: Scammers may call or send mail to seniors, claiming that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes, but they need to pay taxes or fees to collect the prize. The scammers may ask for bank account information or for the older person to send money through wire transfers or gift cards.
- Investment Scams: Scammers may promise a high return on an investment, but they are really just trying to steal money. They may call or send mail, offering "once-in-a-lifetime" investment opportunities, but they will not have a legitimate business address or phone number.
- Charity Scams: Scammers may pretend to represent a charity and ask for donations from seniors. They may use fake names or the names of real charities to appear legitimate. But in reality, they are just stealing money.
- IRS Scam: No one wants to get a call from the IRS telling them there's been a problem with their taxes. Scammers may call, claiming there's a problem and they need your information. Call the local IRS branch office to check. Many times, the individual on the other end of the phone is just trying to get a social security number.
- Tech Support Scam: Scammers may call, claiming to be from a tech company like Microsoft. They state that they’ve detected a virus or issue on a senior’s computer and all they need is some basic information to clear it up.
It’s important to recognize that scammers may reach out by phone or via email. They might also send something in the mail. And this list represents just a fraction of the potential elder fraud schemes out there. So, you must be careful and vigilant to help protect your loved one against fraud.
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Tips for Preventing Elderly Frauds and Scams
As the child of an aging parent, you can help protect your loved ones. And here’s how:
Educate Your Parent
The first step in preventing elderly frauds and scams is to educate your parents. Tell them about the common scams, like the ones outlined above, and how they work. Explain that they should never give personal information or money to anyone they don't know.
Teach Them to Say "No"
Scammers often use pressure tactics to get older people to give them money. Teach your parents to say "no" and hang up the phone or close the door. Remind them that it's okay to be rude to strangers who are trying to scam them.
Use Caller ID
Encourage your parents to use Caller ID to screen incoming calls. If the call is from an unknown number, tell them not to answer it. This can help significantly reduce the chance of your parent falling for a scam via phone call.
Keep Personal Information Private
Remind your parents not to give personal information like Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, or credit card numbers to anyone who calls or emails them. Tell them to shred any documents that contain personal information.
Verify Before Giving
Help your parents to always verify the identity of someone who calls or emails them asking for personal information or money. If the individual claims to be from a company or government agency, hang up and call the company or agency directly to verify the call.
Check Financial Reports
Encourage your parents to check their credit card statements regularly, or check it for them. You should also monitor their credit score for any hits. Monitoring these reports can help ensure that there are no unauthorized charges or accounts.
Only Discuss Finances with Trusted Individuals
If your parents do want to donate money or discuss their finances, they should do so only with trusted individuals, like family members or verified financial advisors.
If your parents fall victim to a scam, tell them to report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the police, or their state Attorney General's office. Reporting scams can help prevent others from falling victim to the same scam.
Maintain Control of Finances
As parents get older, they may not be able to manage their own finances responsibly. You may need to step in and take over their finances to help them avoid scams and manage their money properly.
Elderly frauds and scams can cause significant financial and emotional harm to seniors and their families. As family members, we can help our parents avoid these scams and understand the potential for fraud that exists today. By taking these steps, we can help protect our parents' financial well-being and prevent them from falling victim to elder fraud.