Financial scams targeting seniors are becoming more and more common. Seniors can become targets if they are too trusting, have retirement nest eggs, and live alone. Millions of elderly Americans fall prey to financial scams annually, and sadly 90% are committed by their own family members – usually an adult child.
According to law enforcement officials, those fraudulent activities commonly involve intimidation, threats, physical violence, and even withholding essential caregiving services. Non-relative financial fraudsters also prey on seniors with tactics like door-to-door, “pay-for-service” scams, email or “snail mail” schemes, and random phone calls soliciting donations for fake charities. If you have a senior loved one that you are looking after, the financial threat posed to them is quite real. Here are some proven ways to help your loved one avoid financial scams targeting seniors.
Know the Signs
Financial scams targeting seniors come in many forms, so beware of the classic signs associated with all of them. When you’re in your elderly loved one’s home, look for:
- Stacks of unopened mail lying about with magazine subscription bills, sweepstakes notifications, boxes with “free” gifts, and other suspicious solicitations
- Important household bills not getting paid like the mortgage, medical bills, utilities and cable TV even though you know the senior has enough monthly income
- Unusual withdrawals from their bank account (If you have access), new names (including family members) on their account, or frequent ATM and/or credit card use
- A new caregiver, including a family member, is trying to block your access to them
- Lack of food or toiletries in their home
- They suddenly start acting afraid, confused, or look uncharacteristically unkept
Keep Them Safe
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA; www.ncoa.org), there are several reliable ways to give you and your senior loved one peace-of-mind while warding off financial scammers, such as:
Enrolling Them in the National “Do Not Call” List
Putting them on this list should block most phone scam artists.
Discussing All Unsolicited Offers
Encourage your loved one not to talk to strangers who stop by unsolicited and offer products or services in exchange for money, including caregivers. Ask them to have the solicitor contact you first.
Using Direct Deposit
If your senior is like most, they get a pension and Social Security check in the mail every month. To help ensure those checks aren’t stolen, have them sign up for direct deposit through their bank or credit union.
Monitoring Their Banking Transactions
They may be hesitant at first, but discuss the benefits of you having online access to their banking records, and for them designating you as custodian on their accounts for added security.
Reading All Contracts and Purchasing Agreements Over
Relate to your loved one how it would put your mind at-ease if you could look over any major purchasing agreements or contracts before they sign them. Pitch the idea by mentioning that you were tricked recently, and don’t want it to happen to them.
Shredding All Non-Essential Personal Documents
Help them locate and shred personal documents, like old tax returns or credit card statements, that contain their Social Security, credit card, or bank account numbers to keep them away from prying eyes.
Analyzing Their Credit Report
Using a source like www.annualcreditreport.com, to check the senior’s credit report semi-annually for any signs of suspicious activity.
Assigning a Durable Power-of-Attorney (POA)
Whether it’s you or another trusted individual, it’s a good idea for an elderly person to designate a durable power-of-attorney (POA) to handle their affairs in the chance they become physically and/or