Financial fraud artists cheat millions of elderly Americans out of large sums of their life savings every year. Sadly, over 90% of this financial fraud is committed by their own family members. Draining a shared bank account, theft, and falsely promising to deliver care or services in exchange for money are common forms of family-related elder abuse. Those criminal activities oftentimes involve threats, intimidation, physical violence, and even withholding basic care. Then you have the non-relative financial fraudsters who use tactics like random phone calls, email schemes, or even door-to-door solicitations to scam seniors. When you have senior parents still aging in place, all these threats to their financial security can be unnerving. But on the positive side, there are several proven ways to help protect seniors from financial fraud.
Financial Fraud Warning Signs
When you have elderly parents, these warning signs could indicate that they may be victims of financial fraud:
- Essential bills going unpaid like rent, the mortgage, utilities and medical charges despite having enough monthly income.
- They suddenly act confused, afraid or look disheveled.
- Suspicious recent activities on their banking statements, like unusual withdrawals, new names added to their accounts, or frequent ATM or credit card use.
- Piles of unopened mail in their home with magazine subscription notices, sweepstakes notifications, boxes containing “free” gifts, and other suspicious solicitations.
- A family or outside caregiver is attempting to block your access to them.
If you suspect your parents may be the target of financial fraud, here are several effective ways to protect them so that they can continue aging comfortably at home for many years to come.
How to Protect Seniors from Scams
The best time to discuss with your parents the potential risk posed to them by scammers is before fraud happens. To assist your efforts, use these steps to protect your mom and dad’s financial security:
- Encourage Them to Use Direct Deposit – Most seniors receive Social Security and pension checks monthly. To ensure those aren’t stolen from their mailbox or home, help your mom and dad set up direct deposit.
- Sign Them Up for the “Do Not Call” List – Getting your parents on this list should keep most potential phone scammers from contacting them.
- Monitor Their Credit Rating – A great resource for seniors to check their credit reports. Encourage your parents to do so on a regular basis to look for suspicious activities.
- Buy Them a Paper Shredder – Encourage your mom and dad to shred any unused personal documents that contain information like their Social Security, credit card and bank account numbers.
- Obtain Online Access to Their Financial Accounts – This may be a touchy issue because you’ll always be their child, but it’s smart to ask them to make you a custodian on their bank and credit card accounts merely so you can help monitor unusual withdrawals or payments.
- Discuss Unsolicited Offers – Warn your parents about not talking to strangers who call them randomly or stop by with offers for products or services, and notably if that individual asks for personal information or money.
- Read All Contracts and Purchasing Agreements First – Inform your mom and dad how it would make you feel better if you could read any documents they’re going to sign first where money is going to change hands for products or services. Tell them you’ve been burned recently and don’t want it to happen to them. This also applies to situations where they’ve decided to pay a caregiver to assist around their home.
If one or both of your