Protect Yourself – Senior Scams and Fraud

by Karen on March 17, 2015

Tax Fraud and Obamacare (ACA) along with reverse mortgages have been in the news lately. Seniors are often targeted by scammers looking to cash in on these complicated programs.  It seems there’s little you can do to stop fraud, but there are a few common sense tips to help keep your loved ones safe.

Senior Worried About Potential Fraudulent CallKaren’s dad recently went through several phone calls with the “IRS” – not – where scammers were threatening him if he didn’t pay by money order. Immediately. He was able to get with the local authorities and report the attempted fraud, but it reminded us that many seniors may not be able to defend themselves as well as the on-the-ball Mr. Prante.

 

Fraud in the Family

Despite the headline grabbing Tax and Obamacare fraud, most fraud is in the family.  Sadly, family members and caregivers are the culprits in 55 percent of cases of senior scams.  The best way to protect your loved one from fraud at home is to have “layers” of accountability.

Senior and Helper with Calculator

Have more than one family member involved in the senior’s finances – on a daily basis. Having multiple caregivers “check in” on financial accounts with the senior makes a difference. It keeps a tally on what’s happening at the bank, and it keeps the senior aware that risks are out there.  It pays to be careful.

Warning Signs for your Senior

There are many checklists and protection guides available online.  It’s good to review them and be sure you know the latest scams so you can help keep watch.  If you notice these signs, it could mean your loved one is at risk for fraud:

Fishing Phishing Scams

  • Disappearance of valuable objects
  • Withdrawals of large amounts of money
  • Checks made out to cash
  • Abnormally low bank balances
  • A new “best friend” and isolation from other friends/family
  • Large or unusual credit card transactions
  • Signatures on checks look different
  • Name added to bank accounts or new joint accounts
  • Fear of caregivers

Fraud and Scam Prevention

To prevent both in-home and third party fraud, you can take some simple steps that go a long way.  Getting a trusted “extra” set of eyes in the picture is helpful.  We assist several clients with mail sorting and regular bills.  We talk to them about their accounts, and make sure everything looks above board.  We’re that double check who can detect something wrong and also talk to the senior about phone calls, emails, etc. that may be an issue.

Other safety steps to take:

Good Old Fashioned CheckbookUse direct deposit as much as possible – avoid checks being hijacked

  • Screen caregivers carefully and get references along with background checks
  • Do not respond to advertisements without double checking with a trusted caregiver
  • Be suspicious of strangers offering a deal or asking for information to verify an account
  • Never sign something you don’t fully understand

What to Watch for on the Phone

It’s always a good idea to educate seniors about scams and fraud so they can be ready.  Each time they talk to a stranger or interact online, they should always have a checklist for what “not” to do.  You need to be sure everyone understands what a fraudulent call or contact might feel like:

  • Pressure to act immediately
  • Refusal to send written information
  • Scare tactics
  • Demands to send payment by wire or courier
  • Have to pay a fee to claim a prize
  • Requests for any financial or personal information
  • Claims that you can make a lot of money working from home
  • Refuses to stop calling even when you’ve said you’re not interested

Senior at Laptop with Credit Card

If Scam Occurs: Take Action

If a scammer “gets through”, you need to be sure to take action.  Options available are:

  • Call you local Adult Protective Services and state attorney general’s office.  Better yet, be sure to tell your scammer that you’re reporting him/her immediately.
  • File a police report
  • Explore options at your local court – especially if the scam has been perpetrated by family or caregiver.
  • Contact advocacy organizations
  • If the scam involves Taxes, go to IRS.gov and file a complaint
  • Close all accounts and set up a fraud alert for the senior

Karen’s mother-in-law began to fall prey to some scam and fraud attempts as she started to lose some cognitive abilities.  The first thing Karen did was have a caregiver stop by every day to help with postal mail, email and voice mail so the scams didn’t have a chance to take hold.

If you have a senior for whom A Second Me can be a second pair of eyes to help protect your family from fraud, we’d be happy to help. Just click to get started!

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