It’s sad to say, but according to the National Council on Aging, 1 out of 10 Americans over the age of 60 experience some form of abuse over the course of a year, which equates to as many as 5 million seniors annually. Even more distressing – nearly half of all adults with dementia have experienced neglect or abuse that often leads to elder fraud.
The most common type of elder abuse is financial abuse. This occurs when a fraudster trick, bullies, or coerce the senior into relinquishing their hard-earned assets. In addition to being the most common form of elder abuse, it’s also the fastest-growing. Yet, it’s estimated that only 1 in 44 victims reports the crime.
Experts say that such a small percentage of elder financial abuse is reported because most of the abuse is committed by family members or people familiar to the senior. Scams by strangers occur less frequently, but they often happen quickly and result in more substantial financial losses.
Protecting Our Seniors from Elder Fraud
In recent years, action by legislators, regulators, law enforcement, non-profits, and the private sector is starting to make a dent in the scourge of elder fraud. For example, many banks and credit unions are training their tellers to be observant when an elderly customer begins making large withdrawals or appears stressed, indicators that the senior could be being defrauded.
Institutions have certainly been stepping up, but individuals are still the first line of defense.
Here are some ways that you can help safeguard the senior in your life from elder fraud:
1. Call or visit regularly
Be aware of your loved one has a new “best friend,” becomes socially withdrawn, doesn’t answer their phone very often, or is hesitant to have contact with others unless their friend is present. This is an indicator that someone may be having a strong influence on your senior’s behavior and decision-making that might lead to elder fraud.
2. Block solicitations
You’ll have to be proactive to do this, and it takes a little time, but it’s well worth it to protect your loved one.
Opt-out of commercial mail solicitations by going to the Direct Marketing Association’s mail preference service. And, to eliminate unsolicited offers for credit, go to optoutprescreen.com.
To protect against robocalls, use your phone service’s anti-robocall service or a third-party call-blocking service. In addition, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continues to be hard at work combating fraudsters hiding behind robocalls.
3. Set up safeguards at the bank