Earlier this year, the Senate Special Committee on Aging found that one in 10 Americans over the age of 65 who live at home are victims of financial abuse by scammers. These financial scams have led to an estimated $2.9 billion loss in combined income for seniors who have been exploited.
As a vulnerable population, seniors have been preyed on by scammers for years, through telemarketing calls, and now using the internet. So what can you do to help? Talking to your loved one about these financial scams is the first step in keeping them and their bank accounts protected. There are many reasons why scams targeting seniors are successful, which is why it is important for family caregivers to educate themselves about new ways in which criminals are scamming the elderly online.
Talking To Your Parent About Scams Targeting Seniors
Although technology seems to consume our daily life now, what may seem like common knowledge to you can be confusing to your aging parent. Older generations were slower to adapt to the internet age and don’t have the same sense of skepticism when it comes to certain scams targeting seniors.
Here’s a breakdown of how to start that conversation with your parent to help protect them from financial scams:
Explain why. When you talk to your loved one about scams, it’s important that you explain why they should ignore certain phone calls or emails. If your loved one received a scam in the mail or online, examine it with them and show them the warning signs that it is a scam. It could be something as simple as reminding them that you need to actually enter a contest or lottery in order to win a prize, or that the IRS and Social Security Administration would never ask you for your bank account information.
Don’t shame them. Scam victims are often embarrassed, but there is nothing to be ashamed of – scammers are extremely clever and millions of older adults fall prey to these scams every year. All that’s needed is the very important reminder that is often forgotten as we get older: don’t trust strangers. Stress the idea that if the offer seems too good to be true, a scammer is probably behind it. Being patient and understanding with them will also help to ensure that they approach you when they get scam phone calls and emails in the future.
Try reverse psychology. If you know for a fact that your loved one is entering sweepstakes, make it seem like you’re interested in doing the same. Psychologists believe this can sometimes work as a wake-up call for your loved one. After all, your loved one wouldn’t want to see you lose money just as much as you don’t want them to lose money. By asking them why they enter these sweepstakes, it may help them realize how these scams work.
Protection from Financial Scams
So what do you do if your parent is a victim of one of these scams? After reporting the scam to your local law enforcement officials and federal agencies through STOPFRAUD.GOV, use your loved one’s story to protect others. Remind your loved one that the authorities are always looking for scammers, and the details of the scam can help them find scammers and protect others.
It may also be helpful to take these following steps:
Set up online access to your loved one’s credit card and bank accounts to track their finances, and use AnnualCreditReport.com to ensure a fake account hasn’t been created in his/her name.
Place your loved one’s number on the National Do Not Call Registry.
Place your loved one’s address on the Direct Marketing Association’s opt-out lists, and report any mailed scams to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Enlist the help of trusted neighbors or friends, especially if you don’t live nearby.
Should your loved one be confronted with scams over the phone or internet, make sure they know how to stay protected from these scams.
Keep Seniors Protected At Home
Scamming the elderly online, or over the phone is only one way that older adults remain at risk as they age. While a medical alert device cannot help to combat financial abuse, it can help ensure your loved ones are protected from intruders, fires, and medical emergencies.