According to a survey done by the Investor Protection Trust back in 2010, one out of every five seniors has been taken advantage of financially – many times by scam artists.
The number of scams that target senior citizens seems to increase every year. Older people are particularly vulnerable to these sorts of scams. They tend to have access to cash. They are also more trusting, often somewhat gullible, and more likely to live alone. Many elders are lonely and want to talk to anyone who calls or contacts them.
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid scams that target senior citizens.
- Never give out personal identifying or financial information to a random caller. Scammers love to get personal information, such as banking information, credit card numbers, and social security numbers. They often ask for it in an indirect way, confirming your identity for legitimate-sounding issues like insurance coverage or health benefits.
- Ask for certified letters if someone is claiming to call from the government. Official government business, such as changes in Social Security payments, Medicare or Medicaid, or tax information, is normally done in written form by both federal and state governments. If someone calls claiming to be from the government, a senior should ask for a certified letter and refuse to discuss the subject until it is received.
- No decision needs to be made immediately. Scammers often pressure their victims by claiming a decision needs to be made on the spot or the opportunity will be lost. Legitimate companies will not do this. Unless there is a life-threatening situation, a decision can wait.
Besides helping a senior avoid being taken advantage of, loved ones should also take action.
- When possible, become involved with an elder loved one's financial decisions. As a person grows older, managing finances can become a burden. Helping with the processes of paying bills, choosing insurance plans and managing investments not only takes part of the burden away from the elder, but also helps with keeping an eye on what is going on.
- Visit older loved ones regularly. This helps alleviate that person's loneliness, reduces the risk of having undiscovered falls or injuries, and makes them less vulnerable to predators.
- Vet anyone that comes to your loved one's home regularly. Home health aides, housekeepers, and on-site therapists should go through extensive background checks before being hired. If someone comes to the house to do work, it is a good idea to have a trusted person there to monitor that person's activities.
Elder fraud should be a concern for anyone with older relatives. A bit of education and some vigilance can help in avoiding scams that target senior citizens.