10 Tips To Protect Seniors From Financial Scams

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Millions of our aging senior population will fall prey to scams, fraud, and identity theft every year. Because older adults are more trusting of people whom they don’t know and often are open to chatting with others because of isolation, they are more vulnerable to these types of scams. Some seniors may also have cognitive issues that affect their judgment and reason. In addition, as seniors become less mobile and physically strong, they invite in more personal services and help into their lives and homes.  These set of factors can leave them susceptible to fraud or a stolen identity.

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), there are three prominent scams targeting seniors currently that have cost some billions of dollars this year.  Start a conversation and share these scams with your loved ones to protect their wallet and identity.

Current Scams

  • Fraudulent phone calls from the Social Security Administration (SSA).  There has been a recent uptick in the number of phone calls that threaten arrest or legal actions if the caller does not return their call or press a number to be connected to the SSA.  Another take on this scam, the caller will offer to help to activate their suspended social security number.  The important takeaway is that the SSA will rarely call someone directly unless they have ongoing business with that person, and they will not threaten arrest over the phone.   The best course of action is to hang up at once.  
  • Natural disaster scams.  Devastating natural disasters, like wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes, can bring out the worst and best in people.  Scammers have found new opportunities to target both those who want to help support during a time of need and those directly affected by the disaster.  There are a variety of ways that they connect with people—by phone, email, or even in person.   Sometimes they are impersonating a charity to get money or personal information.  They may set up a fake website that looks closely like a legitimate charity. Or they may collect personal information as the “IRS” looking to help file loss claims. It’s best to thoroughly vet any charity that you wish to support and lean on reputable resources if you are a victim of a disaster.   
  • Grandchild in trouble scam updated.   This scam happens when the caller notifies an elderly adult that their grandchild has been in a car accident or is in jail and needs money immediately.  Although this scam has been around for years, fraudsters are now asking for cash instead of wire transfers or gift cards.  Seniors are asked to divide cash into envelopes and place them in the pages of a magazine that they mail or ship  The best action to take is not acting right away but to hang up and contact your grandchild or family members to verify they are safe.  If you have mailed cash, contact the post office or shipping service to stop delivery.  And file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

Those three scams may be prominent this year, but there are many more scammers looking for other opportunities to target vulnerable seniors—both online and offline. Help protect your loved one from becoming a victim by sharing with them these helpful tips:

Ten Tips to Avoid a Scam

  1. Do not allow anyone but a trusted family member, friend, or professional financial adviser to handle your personal finances or banking. Do not make a large financial purchase or investment without consulting an independent, trusted loved one or financial adviser.
  2. Never give out your PIN, social security number, bank account, Medicare, or credit card over the phone, unless you have initiated contact and know the company that you are speaking to. Never send this information via email. Do not toss in the trash any documentation that includes this type of information.  We recommend shredding these types of documents.
  3. Get recommendations from friends or family for reputable help or services, such as gardening, housekeeping, or meal prep, who may be entering your home.   If you need an in-home care provider, work with an established agency, or request references and get a background check if you are personally hiring someone.
  4. Be careful of door-to-door sales. Most reputable companies no longer use this practice.
  5. Be cautious of high-pressure sales pitches with too much urgency. Slow down and don’t feel threatened to act immediately.
  6. Never sign a contract without clearly understanding the terms of the agreement. And be skeptical of free trial offers and make sure you clearly understand their cancellation policy.
  7. Unexpected notifications by phone or email that you have won a trip, prize, or money are typically a hoax.  Unless you have specifically entered yourself, contact made in this way should be a red flag.
  8. Do not assume that all charity organizations are legitimate. Research a charity before donating.
  9. Sign up for identity theft protection to monitor personal and financial information. If there is an issue, this type of protection can provide aid and assistance to an individual.
  10. Use precautions with your financial information online. Shop with retailers that are well-known companies or check them out with the BBB.  If you are making an online purchase, make sure the website is safe—review their privacy policy and make sure they use encryption (look for lock symbol).  And if you must create a password, make sure it is at least eight characters long and includes some upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters.  

If you or your loved one have been scammed or are concerned that you might be the victim of a scam, don’t be afraid to talk about it with someone you trust. Seek help because doing nothing could have huge financial consequences. For first steps, we suggest that you immediately:

  • Call your bank or your credit card company
  • Cancel any credit card or debit card linked to the account
  • Reset your passwords and personal identification numbers

At Aegis Living, we strive to protect vulnerable seniors and support the efforts of the FTC to curtail the spread of scams.  Through their Pass It On campaign, you can help protect other seniors from scams by sharing what you know to prevent them from becoming a victim, providing resources to help spread the word about scams within your communities, and reporting any scams to the FTC.  You can also sign up to receive free scam email alerts from the FTC to get the latest tips and advice to protect your family.

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