While concrete statistics on elder fraud are challenging to find, some estimates indicate that older adults are swindled out of as much as $30 billion annually. In many cases, the problem is compounded because older adults are too ashamed or scared to report the crime. Let’s take a closer look at this growing problem, along with steps caregivers can take to protect their aging loved ones.
Understanding Senior Scams
Senior fraud comes in many forms, including everything from illegitimate sweepstakes and fake charities to poor investments and telemarketing scams. Elder fraud even occurs at the hands of seniors’ own loved ones, who may take money from victims’ accounts and use it for their own purposes.
Why are seniors so vulnerable to being financially scammed? A combination of factors including everything from physical isolation and trusting natures to expendable cash and waning mental capabilities make them unwitting targets for financial crimes. Unfortunately, senior fraud often threatens the very thing seniors most value: their independence.
Preventing Scams on Older Adults
A few precautionary steps can help caregivers safeguard seniors from scammers. These include:
1. Know the Warning Signs
Does your aging loved one frequently receive mail offers and scam phone calls? If so, this may indicate that he is being targeted by scammers who develop and sell list of past victims. If you’re local, be on the lookout for these warning signs. If you’re a long distance caregiver, ask a neighbor or friend to keep watch on your behalf.
2. Understand the Risks
Scammers tend to use several common scams on the elderly. These include fake sweepstakes which require advance entry or collection fees; fraudsters purporting to be Medicare or Social Security government officials; offers for “free” medication or equipment; investment schemes; and credit card fraud.
Older women who live along are most likely to be victimized by elder fraud — especially if they’ve undergone a major life change within the past three years, such as the loss of a spouse or the move from a longtime home into a retirement community.
3. Unlist and Opt-Out
Scammers can’t victimize older adults if they can’t reach them. Arrange for an unlisted number and/or switch to cell phone service to avoid more common landline calls.
Additionally, register your parents’ address at Direct Marketing Association to minimize junk and scam mail.
4. Control Credit
Periodically check your parents’ credit reports to ensure that their accounts are in good standing and that no fraudulent accounts exist in their names. If possible, arrange for online accent to your parents’ accounts so you can keep an eye out for unusual charges.
Keep in mind that this is delicate topic, and your involvement may be viewed as a threat to your loved one’s independence. Don’t use blame or shame when discussing the topic of elder fraud with your aging loved one. Instead, maintain open lines of communication to help your older adults understand that this issue affects many people aside from themselves. If you are having trouble getting through, the AARP Fraud Watch Network can offer valuable reinforcement in protecting yourself and your family from scammers.
Ultimately, while older adults may be more susceptible to being victimized by predators, they are not without recourse. Nor are their senior caregivers, who can play vital roles in safeguarding seniors from scammers and other forms of elder fraud.