Senior citizens with money are the favorite targets of scam artists – preying on them relentlessly. You may be wondering why the elderly are more prone to become scam victims. Your parents may be susceptible to falling prey to scams if they are generally gullible, too trusting and live alone with no one to watch over their finances.
Loneliness can also, in some cases, play a significant role. This is because elders are usually grateful if they have someone to talk to and do not suspect that the “nice woman or man” speaking with them on the phone might be preying on their vulnerabilities. Other reasons why seniors are on the radar are that they have impaired judgment due to cognitive impairment, and financial ignorance only makes matters worse.
“Your parents might be targeted more frequently compared to other age groups and may become victims of the same scam multiple times.”
The elderly lose billions of dollars every year to unscrupulous scammers, and most people are at a loss when it comes to protecting them. This is one of the most common concerns among the boomer-aged children of elder American parents. Also, keep in mind that in many cases, your parents might be targeted more frequently compared to other age groups and may become victims of the same scam multiple times. And once burned, scammers may hit them again as they are easy marks.
Targeting your seniors is a lot simpler for the scammers when you live in a different city or state and cannot run interference on the incoming emails, phone calls, or mailed letters from manipulative con artists. Giving stern warnings to your parents or demanding power of attorney to handle their finances might seem like the right way to go; however, keep in mind that usually, these tactics come with unpleasant emotional fallout.
If you lecture your parents regarding their mistakes or take control of their finances, it usually plays right into the hands of the scammers as it threatens the independence of the target. You should always remember that for a scam victim to admit that he or she is wrong implies they are stupid and gullible, and can’t take care of themselves.
Top Scams Targeting Elders
To help protect your elder parents from scammers, you should first know the most common type of financial scams that target seniors. According to The National Council on Aging, there are several types of scams that target elders which are listed below. Awareness of these scams can help your parents stay vigilant.
Here are some common tactics most fraudsters and con artists use to separate elders from their funds:
- Cremation, cemetery and funeral scams
- Counterfeit prescription medicines
- Charity scams
- Fraudulent anti-aging products
- Email scams
- Fraudulent investment schemes
- Repair fraud
- Medicaid card and Medicare card ID theft scam
- Lottery scams and sweepstakes
- The grandparent scam
Ways To Protect Your Parents From Scammers
If you are a family member or caregiver, you could take these steps to timely identify any red flags and caution the seniors immediately.
Encourage Your Parents To Ignore The Phone
A lot of scammers and fraudsters will call your elderly folks to determine if they live alone. You should program the phones with contact numbers of friends and family, and urge them not to answer the call if they do not recognize the person on the other end.
A caller may leave a voicemail claiming he/she is with a specific company — for instance, a bank, insurance provider or credit card issuer. In this case, prepare your elders by showing them how they can verify the phone number by searching for the company online, instead of blindly returning the call. By taking the extra step and verifying a credit card or insurance company’s information you can protect your loved ones from helplessly falling for a trick.
Similarly, if a person calls from any “government agency” and requests money, tell your parents to request a formal letter preferably on the official letterhead.
Help Monitor Bank Accounts
If your elder parents are comfortable and happy with this, offer to go through their bank and credit card statements. Carefully review these statements on a regular basis for odd purchases. However, keep in mind that this isn’t similar to taking over the finances of your loved ones; rather, all you are doing is providing another pair of eyes to identify anything that is unusual.
For example, in case your homebody uncle suddenly has hefty credit card charges for a shopping spree in Vegas, you will be able to alert him in time and help them dispute the credit card charges right away. Also, keep in mind that many banks and credit providers will even let you monitor their account, without giving you access to the money. This can offer your elderly parents the peace of mind they deserve. Setting up push notifications to your phone from credit card issuers or banks is also very helpful.
Use a Code Word
Come up with a code word or phrase to use whenever there is a real emergency. Choose an odd word or phrase that is meaningful to your parents and is also easy to remember. This way, if anyone contacts them claiming to be a friend or family member in dire need of assistance, your parents can prompt the person for the code word or phrase to verify if they are telling the truth.
So, if your family had such a code word and your father or mother required help, stating the designated family word will show your mother or father it was a genuine crisis. A scammer or trickster will have no idea about what is going on – while you alert the authorities.
Do Not Blame or Shame
Remind your elderly parents what they told you several decades ago: do not trust strangers — particularly those who are looking for sensitive personal information or money. If you blame them for being too trusting, you may end up hurting them. In some cases, you might even antagonize them. So, avoid assigning blame, it rarely helps.