There are a variety of scams and fraudulent schemes that target older adults. IRS impersonation scams are the most prevalent scams targeting older adults, but financial scams can take a variety of forms. Unfortunately, funds stolen as a result of these scams are often never recovered. You can ensure this doesn’t happen to your loved ones by learning more about scams and how older adults can protect themselves. Here are some tips:
Recognize the scams. The best way avoid a scam is to understand what they look and sound like. Many financial scams have some traits in common, including:
- The promise of a great offer or benefits
- A quick decision is required
- Pressure to provide financial or personal information
- Threats or intimidation
- Understand who is targeted. Older adults may be targeted because they own a home, have retirement savings, or exceptional credit – a treasure trove for con artists to pillage. Scammers take advantage of trusting older adults because they are less likely to say no and sometimes have cognitive issues that affect decision-making skills. In other cases, family members and non-related caregivers may have easier access to their funds, making them more susceptible to theft.
- Keep personal and financial information safe. Older adults should keep bank information, their Social Security card and other financial information stored somewhere secure in their home. Older adults should also be careful about sharing personal information on Facebook and other social media. And Social Security numbers and account numbers should never be shared on social media or with anyone who hasn’t been carefully vetted. Con artists may find useful information on social media sites about family members and then pretend to be a relative who asks for money, or they could directly ask you for sensitive information over the phone or via email.
- When in doubt, just hang up. No one should worry about being impolite if someone on the phone is pressures them to share sensitive information. Just hang up. If the call came from a trusted company, call back and ask for the department that handles the account to determine if the call was for a legitimate purpose.
- Turn down unsolicited offers. If an older adult receives a call or an in-person visit from someone he or she doesn’t know, selling a product or service that wasn’t requested, turn it down or make a decision at a later time. If the service or product is of interest, research on three suppliers and contact them to find the best offer. Including a trusted family member in the decision-making process can help older adults avoid most scams.
- Use direct deposit. Older adults can avoid having their checks stolen by arranging for checks to be directly deposited into their bank account.
Recovering from Scams
If an older adult you care for has been the victim of a financial scam, assure them that there’s no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed. Instead, take steps to report the crime and protect the victim in the future. Victims of financial scams should:
- Report fraud to their bank and credit card issuers.
- Reset account passwords for any compromised accounts. And remember to reset passwords on any other accounts that share the same password.
- Call the police to report stolen property.
- Submit a consumer complaint using the FTC consumer Complaint Assistant.
- Report the scam by calling the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.
- If you suspect elder abuse is also involved, contact adult protective services.