I find that when I visit a lot of homes of my senior clients, their phones often ring three to four times in the course of a short visit! It usually takes a quick second to pick up, say hello and no thank you to the potential salesperson or scammer. It makes me think how much those over 65 are target to scams. Did you know that through public data bases people can find information about your age, household income, products you’ve purchased in the past, and your phone number? All this public data makes scamming easier for con-artist, and more baffling to those who grew up in a time before so much private information was available on the world wide web.
While Millions of seniors are targeted by telemarketing fraud, internet fraud and other scams each year, the consequences for elderly victims of fraud are often devastating, both financially and psychologically. Older adults hold the majority of our nation’s wealth, and many possess a sizable nest egg after having accumulated assets over a lifetime. They’re also likely to own a house, have excellent credit and be solely responsible for their finances—all attractive scenarios to a potential thief.
Seniors with low psychological well-being, limited financial literacy or in poor health are particularly susceptible to scams. Con artists realize that some seniors have difficulty with memory and may have trouble relaying key details to authorities. What’s more, people over age 60 may live alone, making them an easy target for scammers. Those who do remember the details of the scam are often too embarrassed to admit they’d been duped.
Because they might not understand the technological capabilities that scammers possess, seniors are particularly vulnerable to certain scams. Today’s fraudsters and hackers can access vast troves of an individual’s data. In some cases, elderly victims of crime often don’t realize they’ve been scammed for weeks, and thieves use this delay to their advantage. Older individuals also may not know to whom they should report a scam.
Here a few practical measures you can take to help prevent senior fraud.
Relieve social isolation. Seniors who live alone are targeted by criminals who intend to use this social isolation to exploit them. Be wary if the senior has suddenly turned a stranger into a new “best friend”. Scammers will develop relationships with lonely seniors with the intent to exploit their need for connection. Pay close attention if your relative is often unavailable, cannot come to the phone or will not make contact with others without the presence of a caregiver. Such scenarios can indicate the senior’s behavior and decision-making authority are being influenced by a dubious individual.
Manage financial accounts. Set up a separate bank account for the senior in your life to secure his or her assets from unwarranted transactions. A small account with a $300 spending limit and a debit card, for instance, is manageable for a senior who may no longer be able to make the wisest financial decisions. You may also request any bank withdrawals over a certain amount, such as $200, to require two signatures. The small account wards off potential money scams to which the senior may be vulnerable. The senior’s more substantial financial accounts, on the other hand, can be secured independently by a trusted relative.
Plus, the senior’s bank statements can be sent to a trusted individual who can monitor all activity and check for fraud. The financial institution can set up statement deliveries so that this trusted person will have no direct access to the senior’s account. Online services are available to merge all of the senior’s accounts and to check daily for fraudulent activity.
Banks tellers are increasingly being trained in recent times to be vigilant of instances when seniors make sudden, large withdrawals and appear to be stressed. Such activities could indicate to the banks that the senior is being scammed.
Protect personal information over the phone. Warn the senior in your life to never give out personal details over the phone. Credit card numbers, bank account information and social security numbers should never be given out to callers, who could well be scammers posing as credible persons.
Scammers also claim they are individuals from the IRS. The fraudster will then demand money over the phone, threatening to jail the senior if the money is not wired immediately. The IRS will never request back taxes over the phone; the IRS initiates communication strictly by mail.
Prohibit remote access to a senior’s computer. Advancements in technology may leave some seniors squirming for help. Any technology issues should be directed to a reputable computer repair technician.
Con artists have been known to pose as representatives from major technology giants and will call to notify seniors that a virus has attacked their computer. Following the scammer’s instructions to rid the device of any so-called viruses only leads to the thief gaining remote access to the senior’s computer. Saved files, passwords and visited websites stored on the senior’s computer are automatically at the mercy of the criminal. Consequently, the senior’s bank account is wiped out within minutes.
Technology companies do not make outbound calls to individuals. Warn your elderly relative to never allow remote access to his or her computer.
Monitor solicitations from charities. Reputable charities exist, and many do make calls to solicit donations. Scammers exploit generous seniors, so be cautious of how the senior in your life handles telephone solicitations. Fraudulent organizations will often use a name that sounds similar to a legitimate charity
Advise your elderly relative to never give out credit card or bank account information to charities over the phone. Rather, instruct the senior to tell the caller that he or she will research the charity and will consider a donation if the organization is found to be valid.
Hire bonded caregivers. Excellent caregivers offer much-needed care to the elderly. However, dishonest caregivers are not unknown. Financially stressed or emotionally distressed caregivers have made headlines by stealing from elderly care recipients. Make sure to hire a caregiver from a licensed and bonded home care agency to safeguard the senior’s assets.
While seniors can be easy targets for the criminally minded, you can offer practical assistance to help protect the elderly relatives in your life. Family members can also support and shield their elderly loved ones by hiring trusted senior care.
Assisting Hands Home Care offers compassionate, non-medical elderly care to individuals in need of extra support at home. Examples of in-home services that promote the welfare of seniors include assistance with the activities of daily living (eating, bathing, toileting and continence care) and instrumental activities of daily living (managing money, grocery shopping, transportation and housework).
The Assisting Hands Home Care team develops a customized plan of care after meeting the family and care recipient to ensure the senior is cared for with dignity and compassion. Assisting Hands Home Care reliably provides essential in-home care to seniors in Arlington Heights, IL and the surrounding communities.