Guarding Seniors Against Financial Scams and Crimes
Life’s challenges face all of us at one time or another and they often come in the manner of trouble. Guarding ourselves and loved ones from trouble seems like a full time job with no days off. This is especially true with financial scams.
The elderly represent the largest target for financial crimes. In 2010, it was reported that nearly 10% of the elderly population were victims of a financial crime. The same report estimated that this number will increase to 30% as the aging population grows.
There are many reasons why criminals target seniors in financial scams. They are often more trusting than the younger population. Advancements with technology tend to make older adults more susceptible to this type of crime. Most significantly, seniors often have nest eggs that make them the best source to prey upon. They are often more financially secure, which means they can provide more profit.
Even with these threats, taking simple actions to safeguard your loved will help protect them from being a victim of a financial crime.
Protecting your loved one’s assets should involve a discussion with a professional that will manage some or all of their resources. This discussion should determine important decisions about health care, asset management, and contingencies (such as power of attorney or living trusts).
Looking ahead, it is also helpful to designate one trustworthy person to oversee all financial manners. This person will have up-to-date knowledge of your loved one’s finances and valuables and be able to respond quickly if a crime or potential financial scam is suspected.
Best Practices to Protect Against Financial Scams
Keeping your senior loved one’s financial future safe involves more than secure documentation. There are many actions you can put in place to provide the best protection. An article offered by the American Bankers Association suggests these tips for your senior loved one:
- Shred financial information before throwing them away.
- Lock up financial information when others will be in their home.
- Be very protective of personal information, especially your social security number.
- Order annual credit reports.
- Check references and credentials before hiring anyone.
- Pay with checks and credits cards instead of cash.
- Never pay a fee or a tax to collect a cash “winning.”
- Consult with a financial advisor or trusted friend before making a financial decision or signing any financial document.
The same article offers tips for family and friends to spot financial abuse:
- Question unusual activity, such as large withdrawals, use of ATM card, or changes in accounts.
- New “friends” accompanying your senior loved one to the bank.
- Sudden non-sufficient fund activity or unpaid bills.
- Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money.
- Altered wills, trusts, or power of attorney.
- Unusual behavior from your loved one that suggests shame or reluctance to discuss an issue.
Along with these tips, it is helpful to know the types of technology your loved one uses on a daily basis. Setting up anti-virus software on his or her devices will offer a line of protection. Also, during a visit you can take a quick overview to scan for suspicious circumstances.
Financial Scam Awareness
After setting up protections on financial documents and setting in place protective practices, it is also important to stay on top of the latest scams that target older people. Most of these scams are designed to confuse their potential victim by preying on their emotions. It is vital that your loved one knows he or she has to be skeptical and it is ok to say no.
Many seniors have adapted to using technology as a way to communicate with friends and family and are most likely unaware that is also a key resource for fraudsters. Warning your loved against common scams will prevent he or she from falling for desperate pleas from a “relative” or fake charity requests.
Don’t assume that your older loved one would never fall for sweepstake scams, inheritance tricks, or threats to be put in jail for false unpaid bills. Informing your loved one of all the ways he or she can be harmed can be overwhelming at first. It could bring fear of using any technology in order to stay safe. Reassurance that a firm no and use of good instincts will protect their assets and allow for continued use of technology.
The use of good instincts and a firm no will also help when swindlers come knocking on the door. Advise your loved one, especially after severe weather events, that criminals have been known to pose as a service person from a utility in order to gain access to their house and steal valuables.
Along with informing your older loved one about the fraudulent actions of strangers, it is important to discuss the intentions of devious friends and relatives. AARP reports that 90% of perpetrators of fraud are known to their victims. Keeping in mind the tips offered above, especially having financial and health care documents in place, will help to prevent this situation.
Report Senior Fraud
Many seniors are embarrassed or afraid to admit they have become victims of a financial scam. It is important for your loved one to know that it can happen to anyone and reporting the situation is the best way to stop it from happening again.
It is also helpful to discuss suspected financial scams with their friends and loved ones in order to warn others.
Set in place steps to take if your loved one fears he or she is a potential victim of a financial crime. These steps will include necessary phone calls, such as yourself, the police, and any related financial institution.
It is also helpful to report fraud or financial exploitation to the AARP Foundation’s ElderWatch (1-800-222-4444, option 2). Shutting down the scammers is busy work and there are several agencies that will help in stopping them. AARP’s ElderWatch is designed to help older consumers recognize, refuse, and report fraud and scams. These tools can be found on their website.
Trust Your Instincts
A conversation about potential threats to one’s finances can be very intimidating for an older person. It may seem as if every aspect of one’s life is vulnerable. To a certain degree this is true; however, setting up good protections, staying informed, practicing a firm NO, and trusting one’s gut instincts sets up a stronghold that brings a sense of trust and security.