As technology advances, hackers and thieves find new ways to target people of all ages. Senior citizens often find themselves the victims of financial abuses such as exploitation, fraud, pyramid schemes, and other scams. Each year, the elderly lose millions of dollars to scammers with little to no assistance in recovering their lost assets. The National Council on Aging claims the top ten financial scams that target senior citizens include insurance scams, telemarketing scams, Internet fraud, investment schemes, and grandparent scams. Most often, financial abuse is committed by an elder’s family members. Use the following information to protect yourself or your loved one from elder fraud and financial abuse.
Be aware of elder fraud: Awareness of scams, hacks, and targeting tactics constitutes the first line of defense against elder fraud. Learning common tactics and following news sources can help you identify a scam before it’s too late. Because elder fraud and theft often occurs at the hands of a close family member, remember that you or your loved one could be at risk of fraud and theft from those closest to you. AARP suggests using credit reports to monitor your identity and ensure you don’t have any fraudulent activity.
Never give out personal information: Many scammers target aging adults over the phone by claiming to be a company or family member needing financial and personal information to pay for bills and other services. Don’t give out personal information such as your social security number, account and routing numbers, birthdate, and healthcare information. While giving out information over the phone is not the safest approach, sharing personal information is okay as long as you initiated the call to a company or person you are familiar with and have worked with before. Just be sure to check financial records and other statements after sharing personal or financial information.
Stay involved with financial decisions: If you need assistance managing your finances and personal information, appoint a trusted person to help, but don’t stop your involvement with all the decisions. Personal and financial information is at a much higher risk when people don’t actively monitor bank accounts, credit card statements, and other information. You might consider appointing a power(s) of attorney to handle your affairs when you are no longer capable of making the decisions yourself.
Ask for written proof from solicitors: Financial fraud and theft often occur when a person or business promises an exchange of goods or services, but doesn’t follow through because they aren’t legally bound to with written documentation. Don’t process any financial payments until you receive information in writing for charities, billing, or special offers. Try not to purchase products or services if you must write down your credit card or bank account number, in case the documentation isn’t properly shredded. However, fundraisers and children’s organizations, such as Girl Scouts or Cub Scouts, may not have written documentation. You should also write down a salesperson’s information, including their name, title, company name, phone number, address, and business license number, if they have any. Written documentation will help hold people accountable in case of suspicious or fraudulent activity.
Shred financial statements and documents: Properly shred and discard any financial statements, receipts, and other documentation with personal information. Don’t copy or scan any financial documents with accounting and routing numbers. If you must share financial information with a company or another person, be sure they have the means to properly shred important information.
If you suspect fraudulent behavior, contact your bank, the Social Security Administration, and credit card companies to investigate accounts, charges, or withdrawals. Contact Adult Protective Services (APS) for more information about reporting elder fraud. You can also visit the U.S. Administration on Aging’s website for information about financial assistance and elder abuse prevention.