The elderly lose an estimated $3 billion a year to scams and other financial elder abuse, according to Consumer Reports. A generally trusting personality combined with ample savings (“nest egg”) makes many seniors a prime target for fraudsters.
According to Senior LinkAge, many elderly individuals don’t want to believe that someone would take advantage of them. This problem is amplified if they are affected by mental health conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, some seniors struggle to properly report an incident or are too ashamed to admit their mistake.
Fortunately, there are some simple steps to reduce the risk of scams. As an elderly caregiver, it is important to become familiar with them and take a vested interest in the financial wellbeing of your loved one as you may be the last line of defense against fraud. Garcia, Artigliere, Medby & Faulkner, a law firm that specializes in elder abuse, offers six ways to avoid financial scams.
Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs
A proactive approach is one of the strongest barricades against financial elder abuse. Unexplained bank account withdrawals are often one of the first warning signs of a potential scam. Furthermore, any new, unfamiliar authorized users added to the account or suspicious signatures on documents should be investigated immediately. You should also be alert to any abrupt banking or attorney changes made by your elderly loved one.
1. It’s Rarely a Stranger
Research has found that 90% of senior fraud is committed by someone the elderly individual is associated with. This includes family members, neighbors, friends or even senior care service employees. It’s imperative that both you and your elderly loved one remain cognizant of warning signs regardless of who you are associating with.
2. Track and Protect Valuables
Maintain an accurate record of your loved one’s valuables from financial assets to artwork or collectable items. Make multiple copies of this document and share with one or more trusted relatives. A larger group dedicated to protecting the financial wellbeing of your loved one offers a higher probability of noticing missing valuables or detecting a scam before it’s too late.
3. Keep Personal Information Safe
Limit access to Social Security and Medicare numbers. If possible, keep the physical cards stored in a safe or other secure location. Neither you nor your elderly loved one should carry these items in a purse or wallet unless absolutely necessary. Additionally, advise your elderly loved ones to avoid sharing maiden names, as well as the place and date of their birth.
4. Be Social
Seniors who remain active and socialize frequently will often find themselves in a trustworthy group that cares for each other’s wellbeing. A strong, reliable support system can play a critical role in thwarting fraud.
5. Act Fast!
As previously mentioned, scam artists benefit from the fact that only a fraction of financial elder abuse is reported. If your elderly loved one has been a victim of fraud, or if you’ve noticed any warning signs, alert the authorities immediately. This not only offers you an opportunity to quickly rectify the current situation, but can help prevent future fraud.
Proper education and a swift, appropriate response are crucial for preventing your elderly loved one from fraud-induced financial distress.
Encourage your elderly loved one to contact you before agreeing to any offer and stress the importance of avoiding any online links or program registrations that come from unknown sources. Remind them if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. Don’t be afraid to contact a solicitor with questions and always trust your best judgment.
To ensure you are fully prepared, take a moment to sit down with your elderly loved one and become familiar with these common scams:
These same principles apply when considering a major purchase such as a stairlift for your elderly loved one. Any significant acquisition can be susceptible to scams, financing fraud or hidden fees. However, Stannah prides itself on providing 150 years of reliable and trustworthy service. Call (888) 546-1229 or visit the “Why choose Stannah” tab to discover how, when considering a stairlift, you can ensure that your elderly loved one navigates their home safely and independently, without any fear of financial scams.