How to Protect Seniors From Financial Scams
Since older people often live alone, are unfamiliar with technology, have caregivers come into their homes or suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, criminals tend to see them as easy prey. Here are some tips to protect your loved ones.
Be Aware of Common Types of Scams
Financial scams that target seniors tend to fall into a few categories. Some involve a person who claims to represent the government and calls an older adult regarding Social Security or Medicare. The individual may claim that information must be verified, a bank account or credit card number is needed or a senior has violated the law.
Generally speaking, a representative from a government agency will only contact someone by telephone if that individual contacted the agency first. Advise your relative to hang up if a caller claims to represent the government, but your loved one didn’t initiate contact.
Scammers sometimes contact seniors claiming that they have won a prize. Unless an individual specifically remembers entering a contest, it’s usually safe to assume that it’s a scam.
Criminals often take advantage of seniors’ generosity by collecting fraudulent donations. Individuals may call to solicit contributions or even create websites that are similar to those of reputable nonprofits. Tell your loved one not to respond to telephone solicitations and to research a charity to make sure it’s legitimate before making a donation. Show your relative where to look for a lock on a website that shows that it’s secure.
Another common financial scam involves someone contacting an individual claiming that a family member, such as a grandchild, has been seriously injured or arrested. The caller may ask a senior to provide financial information, wire money or send cash. Tell your relative to hang up if he or she receives such a call and to get in touch with a family member to find out if there is any truth to the story.
In-home caregivers who work with seniors should undergo background checks, but sometimes agencies don’t uncover information about financial wrongdoing because it occurred in another state or because it was never reported. If your loved one has an aide who helps with household tasks, make sure that individual doesn’t have access to your relative’s bank account information, credit or debit cards, retirement accounts or Social Security number.
Keep Financial Information Safe
Talk to your relative about common scams targeting seniors. Discuss why and how bank account information, credit cards and Social Security numbers should be protected. Buy a paper shredder so sensitive information doesn’t get tossed in the trash, stolen and used to commit identity theft. Discuss ways to tell the difference between a trustworthy website and one that may be a scam. Tell your loved one that if he or she has any reason to suspect that a person or organization may not be legitimate, the best course of action is to cut off contact immediately.