Senior financial scams are a growing problem nationwide. Your aging loved ones may have spent a lifetime saving for retirement, but they could lose it all if they fall into the hands of the right con artist. Consider these startling statistics:
Older adults lose approximately $2.9 billion each year from financial scams and exploitation, according to the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
The most common scams involved IRS impersonators who defrauded older adults out of tens of millions in funds.
Roughly 1 out of every10 Americans age 65 will be a victim of financial abuse.
Recognizing Senior Financial Scams
Nearly 954,000 seniors actually miss meals because of money lost to fraudsters, the study says. And, sadly, it’s not just strangers preying on our elderly. Family members are behind about 90 percent of elder abuse cases, including financial fraud and other exploitation.
Seniors, with their own nest egg and time on their hands, can be easy targets for swindlers, according to the FBI. They are less likely to report a crime because they’re embarrassed or worried about what friends or family might think. At times, seniors aren’t even aware of the deceit. Memory loss that comes with aging and illness can make it difficult for some to speak up or even understand that they’ve been duped.
How can you take steps to protect the seniors in your life?
Stay in touch. People who are alone and depressed can be more vulnerable to scam artists, posing as friends and helpers. Talk with them to find out how they’re spending their days. Visit with them or, if you don’t live nearby, have a trusted friend or relative regularly check in on them. Make sure they are taking care of themselves and their home. Encourage involvement at their church or through community programs for seniors.
Caution: Remind them to be mindful when sharing their credit card number, banking information, and social security number, especially when somebody contacts them out of the blue offering a service or product. Let them know that it’s never a good idea to share personal information with an unfamiliar company or stranger. If a person purporting to represent a company they’ve done business with calls them, asking for sensitive information, tell them to hang up and contact the business to find out if the request is legitimate. To curtail telemarketing calls, register their phone number on the National Do Not Call registry.
Educate: Scam artists will promise big prizes, fancy vacations, and inexpensive medications, but those pledges are always too good to be true. Point out that genuine lottery winners never need to send money to claim their prize. Remind them that they should talk to their doctor before making any changes to their medications. The only action required after hearing, “Act now or you’ll miss out on this amazing deal,” is hanging up the phone.
Know the signs. Unpaid bills and stories about new close friends are just two of the many warning signals of financial abuse, according to the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. Ask questions about any items or other belongings that might be missing from the home. Check for troubling activity in bank accounts or signatures on checks that don’t match your loved one’s handwriting.
Make the call. If you suspect financial fraud, there are resources to protect seniors from further abuse and bring the criminal to justice. Call the police and contact the Eldercare Locator, part of a government-sponsored agency that connects individuals to Adult Protective Services in their area.
Vigilant and loving friends and family can make all the difference to ensure seniors enjoy the retirement years they’ve earned, and can set their loved ones on the right path.
Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit committed to empowering and inspiring consumers nationwide to make wise financial decisions and live debt free. Speak with a certified counselor for a free debt analysis today
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