Your senior loved one may be sweet, caring and trusting — qualities you treasure about them. However, these same qualities can also cause them to be vulnerable to a financial scam.
Other factors can also contribute to the risk, including declining mental faculties and even loneliness. If the scammer is operating by phone and has a friendly, pleasant phone demeanor, an aging senior might start looking forward to their calls, becoming open to their financial “advice” and “suggestions.”
However, there are some things caregivers and relatives of aging loved ones can do to help protect them against those who would otherwise defraud them. These preventative measures include:
1. Do Not Call Registry. Make sure your elderly loved one’s phone number is listed with the National Do Not Call list. Register their number by calling (888) 382-1222, or register online at www.donotcall.gov. This will limit calls from telemarketers and make the calls that do come through easier to screen.
2. Stay connected. Visit your elderly loved one on a regular basis. Inquire about how they spend their time and who they talk with on the phone. If they mention a new “phone friend” they have been speaking to regularly, this could be a red flag. Find out all you can about this person’s motives. If possible, also scan the mail your aging parents are receiving, as financial scams can arrive by mail.
3. Know the scams. Know the current risks and scams going around; some of the more popular ones include:
• A “sure-fire, high-return investment opportunity”
• A “new miracle health product” for a cost
• A sweepstakes or other prize that they have won that requires “a fee” to claim it
• Requests for “charitable donations” for a recent tragedy that the scammer intends to keep
• A “handyman” soliciting your loved one by phone or in person to do “repairs” that require a large up-front payment; the repairs are never completed
4. Gentle reminders. Warn and inform your aging loved one about the possibility of receiving calls, visits or mailings from people with fraudulent intentions. Remind them to never, ever give out personal or financial information such as bank account numbers, credit card numbers or their social security number.
5. Provide assistance with finances. If managing their own personal finances has become too difficult for your parent or loved one, offer to help. Stay aware of their bank balances as well as what has to go out each month for bills. Watch for any fluctuations in these numbers and inquire about them immediately.
Fraud committed against seniors is a serious issue that affects thousands of elderly Americans each year, but these five tips can assist you in preventing your loved one from becoming a victim.