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Scammers Target the Elderly
Scammers love to take advantage of the elderly. Because those in the golden years of life are often unfamiliar with common scam tactics, they can easily fall prey to dishonest people looking to make a quick buck at someone else’s expense. While scams can wreak havoc on anyone’s finances, the elderly are particularly vulnerable because they don’t have the time or opportunity to rebuild assets that have been lost and they may not remember details of the interaction.
Scammers resort to numerous underhanded tactics to siphon money away from their targets. They may pose as a banker, asking to add another name to an account. They may claim to be a charity or offer an investment opportunity. They may use phone or email “phishing” schemes to get bank account numbers or passwords. They may even try to establish a relationship first, and then ask for the money straight up. Encourage your elderly loved ones to be wary of anyone asking for money, especially if that person is unwilling to provide written confirmations or if they won’t wait for a second opinion.
Setting Up Safeguards
The best way to protect a loved one against scammers is to setup intentional safeguards. These can include assigning one person (a family member, clergy member, or close friend) to keep an eye on financial activity, installing security software on the computer, adding their phone number to the “Do Not Call” list, and encouraging them to ask for information about any financial or charitable opportunity in writing.
If your loved one’s mental capabilities have begun to deteriorate, it may be time to establish a legal guardianship or trust so that they can’t give money away easily.
Communication is Key
The key to protecting your elderly parent or grandparent from fraud is to communicate with them on a regular basis. Ask them who called them that day, encourage them to get a second opinion about any financial decisions, and talk to them about common scam tactics, including scam tactics in real estate transactions. It’s important that they don’t feel like you’re trying to take away their independence, so approach the topic sensitively. They may be comfortable having someone they can call any time they are asked for money in order to verify the validity of the letter, email, or phone call.
What To Do If You Suspect Fraud
If you think your elderly loved one has been the victim of a scam, notify his or her banker and ask that a hold be put on the account. Report any suspicious activity immediately and close credit cards or bank accounts that have been compromised. In addition, contact law enforcement if you suspect that a crime has been committed. The police can help determine whether legal action should be taken, and when it should be taken.
If your elderly parents or grandparents live alone, an in-home caregiver can help protect them by screening calls and helping family members watch out for potential scammers.
Photo by maveric2003