How to Protect Yourself or a Loved One from Elder Fraud
In the age of technology, fraud seems to lurk around every corner—and our older generations tend to be particularly susceptible to the pitfalls. If you might be vulnerable to scams or have someone in your life who might be, there are some essential tools to help you detect fraud and fight it before disaster strikes.
The National Council on Aging estimates the cost of elder financial abuse somewhere between $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion with as many as 5 million elders taken advantage of each year. Exact numbers are nearly impossible to know because so many scams are never reported … or even discovered.
From medical expenses to home repairs, it is crucial for all of us to be on the lookout for scams and to speak to our elderly parents or loved ones about the dangers of giving financial information to people they do not know. Many of these issues can be prevented by just knowing the types of scams out there.
Emails requesting monetary favors, phishing attempts for credit card numbers, hot new investment schemes—these are some of the classic Internet scams targeting seniors across the United States. Our everyday use of the Internet, even by grandma and grandpa, has escalated the ability of scam artists to access enough information to fool people into giving away hundreds or even thousands of dollars in an instant.
Pro Tip! If you want to make sure you are on top of the latest fraud attempts, set a Google Alert ® for words like Elder Fraud, Phishing Schemes, and Online Fraud to get a weekly email of the top news stories relating to each topic.
Then there are the annoying “robocalls” that come day and night from people claiming to be from your credit card or insurance company and just need a little information to complete your account. Someone savvy will know to hang up the phone and block the number, but an alarming number of seniors give out sensitive information before catching on to a problem.
“Door-to-Door” Medicaid Scams
Investigators in several cities, Houston included, have reported scammers often dressed in medical scrubs going door to door posing as a medical testing company that’s doing a mouth swab genetic test. Then they will ask for Medicare or Medicaid cards with identification to sign people up for their newest medical app. Scammers will harvest that data to sell on the black market.
Add an Extra Layer of Security
Many scams involve winning the victim’s confidence and friendship, making it nearly impossible to break that bond when family members try to intervene and explain the situation. So here are a few ways that you can add an extra level of security to your loved one’s financial accounts.
- Advise your loved one to never give out any personal information, even if the situation seems legit and the person credible. Make sure they always call a family member immediately after someone tries to solicit personal financial information to keep everyone in the loop of a possible problem.
- Consider being a Power of Attorney for your loved ones and joint holder of large accounts, so that your permission is also needed for any changes or withdrawals.
- Monitor your loved ones’ Credit Score for new accounts that you don’t recognize or drastic changes to the overall score.
Finally, several organizations offer free help, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the FBI, the National Center on Elder Abuse, AARP and the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging fraud hotline.
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