Elder fraud has become an epidemic among senior citizens, and as unfortunate as it may be, scam artists view the senior population as easy targets. Since elder fraud often goes unreported, the exact figures are unknown, but it is estimated that over $40 billion is stolen from senior citizens in the U.S. each year. While law enforcement is making strides in protecting against this, it is difficult to bring the perpetrators to justice since their trail usually leads to a dead end as schemers move on to the next fraud. It is important for individuals and their caregivers to protect themselves against fraud. The following list provides an outline of some of the ways to avoid becoming a victim of elder and financial fraud.
- Stay away from sending money and providing personal financial information. Elders should be wary about disclosing their bank information, credit card information and social security numbers. It’s also important to be mindful of who has access to your records. Elder financial abuse spans a broad spectrum of conduct, including:
- Taking money or property
- Forging an older person’s signature
- Getting an older person to sign a deed, will, or power of attorney through deception, coercion, or undue influence
- Using the older person’s property or possessions without permission
- Promising lifelong care in exchange for money or property and not following through on the promise
- Stating that a family member needs urgent and emergency funds, requesting that a money order be sent immediately.
- Review documents thoroughly before signing them. Many con artists pose as door-to-door salesman to sell multiple products with a lot of paperwork that has to be signed right away to secure the ‘special’ offer. These ‘salesman’ are especially dangerous since they provide a face to the product, making them appear more trustworthy. One of the most important things elders can do to avoid being conned is to not allow anyone into their home that they do not know.
- Limit phone interaction with people you don’t know. Scammers target elderly individuals because they know they are more likely to talk at length over the phone than any other generation. Make sure your parents know that they should not answer extensive questions over the phone
- Use well-known contractors for construction. If you or your parents are looking to do any remodeling or home improvements, it is important to request references and consult the Better Business Bureau or the National Fraud Information Center.
- Shred all documents containing personal information. Before throwing out bills or any information regarding your financial information, you should shred the documents. Con artists often go through discarded mail to find bank account and credit card numbers, addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers and more.
- Steer Clear of health insurance scams. Lower income seniors often rely on their Medicare health insurance, which can lead to elder fraud. Unfortunately, shoddy ‘medical equipment companies’ target seniors for their Medicare numbers in exchange for free equipment. Generally speaking, a family doctor must order and sign for all equipment in order for it to be covered by Medicare. Make sure your loved one knows not to give out their Medicare number to someone they do not know, that they always review their Medicare payments closely and that they verify ordered equipment with their physicians.
- Avoid signing up for sweepstakes. Seniors often sign up for sweepstakes, apply for free magazine subscriptions and enter contests by mail. Companies who engage in elder fraud keep records of these submissions and give out the information of susceptible elders, making your parents a higher target. They also keep track of who has been successfully scammed in the past.
- If you or someone you know has already been a target of elder fraud, make sure they report it. Seniors are often embarrassed to report elder fraud and thus these crimes often go unreported. The best way to avoid elder fraud is to educate yourself and your loved ones on common scams, and to use caution in all transactions and investments they make
Understanding who is at risk and why can help you protect your loved ones. When your aging loved one feels isolated or lonely, they may be more inclined to talk to the ‘sales’ person on the phone, and give away important information to those that use telemarketing scams as their way of hacking into accounts.
If your aging loved one suffers at all from physical or mental disabilities, they are susceptible to being preyed upon by handymen, auto repair, or any service-related industry. Even a senior in complete control of their physical and mental faculties can easily be taken advantage of in the same situations. It isn’t that the senior population is so gullible but they grew up in a time when these types of scams and fraud were seldom heard of or experienced.
At Lifefone, your loved ones’ physical safety is our primary concern. While our primary business is to provide medical alert protection, we also want to make sure you are informed about other ways that their safety can be impacted.
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