Each year, elders are subject to hundreds of thousands of scams, cons, and other types of financial abuse. These scams are estimated to lose seniors up to $30 billion dollars per year of their hard-earned wealth and financial assets. The worst part? Yes, this abuse can be by fraudsters or con-artists, but it can also come from family members or close friends.
There are ways to prevent this abuse so your family member or loved one doesn’t have to be a victim. Keep reading to learn about some common scams so that you can identify them— and help your loved ones avoid them— in the future
- As elders turn more to online services and social media, scam artists make connections and endear themselves as friends to the elderly. This often leads to the scammer asking for money for an emergency like a flight back to the United States.
Telemarketing or mail fraud
- This scam involves taking advantage of the elderly to sell goods that may never arrive. This scam takes advantage of this older age demographic who make purchases over the phone more often than other age groups.
- This scam involves using fake emails, calls, or texts to steal personal information. The scammer will often send the elder an email masquerading as their bank. The fake email will often ask the person to update their information. This is used to steal their identity and account information.
- This scam is where a fraudster calls the elderly to inform them that they are past due on taxes, and they will be arrested if an amount is not paid immediately. Often, they ask for the amount to be paid using gift cards or other means that are hard to trace.
Social Security spoofing
- Scammers contact the elderly and claim that the victim’s social security number has been compromised. They ask the victim to confirm the number or risk the possibility it will be seized or locked down. These scams often involve caller ID spoofing and may appear that the Social Security Administration is calling direct.
How you can recognize potential signs of elder abuse:
- This could be checks that are missing or check copies that include suspicious signatures
- Changes on documents or newly executed legal documents like Power of Attorney (POAs), wills, or trusts.
- Unusual or large withdrawals that are out of character or that the older person can’t explain.
- Changes in account beneficiaries or authorized signers
- Missing property
- Entry forms or prizes from supposed contests
- Social isolation that is out of character
What to do once you recognize potential elder abuse?
- Contact their bank or credit union. You may not be able to get information about the accounts or transactions unless you’re a signer, POA, or conservator but letting their financial institution become aware of a potential problem is beneficial. Financial employees are trained to recognize potential elder abuse and can help prevent or minimize loss. They can make note of suspicious activity and report to the appropriate authorities
- Contact Adult Protective Services. This government-affiliated agency is charged with investigating elder abuse reports. To find your state APS office, visit the National Center on Elder Abuse's website.
- Alert law enforcement. Contact the police or local sheriff’s office in the victim or loved one’s area.
In addition, to prevent these crimes from happening, Consumerfinance.gov has a great checklist. Use it for yourself or help your family to decide what’s right for their protection. The checklist can be downloaded or printed here.