November 1st, 2019
By now you’ve probably heard all the horror stories. It could be a neighbor or a friend who’s been targeted. Or it could even be a loved one in your own family. Scammers don’t show any mercy when they attempt to bilk someone out of their money, and it’s a sad fact that they usually choose seniors as their victims with all kinds of schemes, taking advantage of their isolation, ease of trust, higher savings, and lack of tech savvy.
Unfortunately, these scams often work. Advanced technology can be hard for many seniors to navigate, and they may fear being viewed as naive or gullible. To top it all off, con artists target elders knowing that they may be lonely, and also more trusting of and willing to help younger people.
Many schemes against seniors are performed over e-mail, the phone and even through door-to-door advertising. They may take the form of alleged credit card offers, charity donation requests, home improvement offers, investment opportunities, banking and wire transfers, insurance offers, health products, and sweepstakes and contests.
Often, these scams go unreported or are hard to prosecute. Of course, they can be catastrophic to senior victims, and wealthy seniors aren’t the only ones at risk of financial abuse. Low-income elderly individuals are also very much subject to being targeted, and it’s not always strangers who commit these crimes. You may be surprised to learn that more than 90 percent of all reported elder abuse is actually perpetrated by a senior’s very own family members.
HOW TO PROTECT SENIORS FROM SCAMS
With older Americans being cheated out of almost 3 billion dollars per year by scammers, it’s obvious that there’s still a long way to go in stopping fraud against senior citizens. As always, friends and family members are the first line of defense, so here are five ways to help ensure the safety of our elderly loved ones:
Call or visit regularly.
Be suspicious if a senior citizen has a new “best friend,” becomes isolated, or never seems available or able to come to the phone. This could indicate someone is exercising undue influence over them
You can arrange for a ban of commercial mail solicitations for five years at a time with the Direct Marketing Association’s mail preference service. You can also eliminate robocalls by using your phone service’s anti-robocall device, using a third-party call-blocking service or device, or using a call-screening tool.
Give respite to a caregiver.
Caregivers who are stressed financially and emotionally can sometimes be tempted to steal the assets of those they are caring for. Monitor the caregiver and ensure that person gets enough rest.
Set up bank safeguards.
If you’re concerned about your relative’s financial decision-making, set up a small account at a local bank for them that includes a debit card and checking with a spending limit of around $300. Other finances can then be saved in a separate, more secure account.
Arrange for limited account oversight.
Ask financial institutions to send statements and alerts to a trusted person who has no direct access to the senior’s accounts, so that person can check for fraud.
BEWARE OF VOLUNTEER CAREGIVER SCAMS
Did you know that your loved ones can also be scammed by volunteer caregivers?
It’s true. Caregiver scams have become more prevalent in recent years. “Volunteer Caregivers,” so named because they befriend and volunteer their services to random seniors, often fly under the radar when families don’t notice that the caregiver has moved into their mom or dad’s home. By then it can be too late, because if the caregiver has criminal intent, they can end up bilking a senior out of money and belongings, amass huge credit card debts, and even gain power of attorney.
Here are the danger signs to look for if you fear your loved one might become the victim of a Volunteer Caregiver scam:
*A caregiver who shows unwillingness to meet face-to-face with family members
*Excessively-high hourly rates (most caregivers charge in the $12 to $20 per hour range)
*Unexpected credit card charges or bank withdrawals, or unexplained checks
If you still think that hiring an aide on your own is better than going through an agency, be sure to inquire about the aide’s background, ask for references, and pay a reputable firm to do a criminal background check. Your loved one’s safety and well-being could be at stake.