Did you know that older adults lose billions of dollars each year to targeted scams? Don’t let the livelihood you’ve earned over many years dissipate within minutes. Follow along as we share the ins and outs of elder fraud and how to prevent it from happening to you or someone you love.
What is senior fraud?
The Department of Justice defines senior fraud as “the act of targeting older adults in which attempts are made to deceive with promises of goods, services, or financial benefits that do not exist, were never intended to be provided, or were misrepresented.”
This crime is most often conducted by individuals who do not personally know their victims, but use technology and other resources to find out their age, address, and personal backgrounds.
What is senior exploitation?
While senior exploitation is also a crime, it differs from senior fraud. This type of financial exploitation is the illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds or property and is often done by someone close to the victim, like a family member or friend.
In many cases of exploitation, victims have voluntarily named a close family member or friend to a position of trust and are unaware that their wishes are being abused or neglected.
If you suffer from physical or mental disabilities, be aware of anyone trying to gain undue influence over your finances. Those who understand your challenges may use their position of trust and power to advantage of your funds, assets, or property.
If you do trust a family member, it’s always best to get advice from a third-party or lawyer before turning over control of your assets.
Why does senior fraud happen?
It’s frightening to know how often senior fraud and exploitation happen. The last thing you want to be thinking about during your golden years is being scammed out of your nest egg. You should be focusing on your dream retirement and the notion that any wishes you have for the future are protected and seen through.
Why would someone want to ruin that for you and your loved ones? These are the main reasons senior fraud takes place:
- Many seniors have a strong financial portfolio – from large savings to home ownership, retirement accounts, stocks, and sources of income like a pension and social security. Scammers will try to find any way they can to rob seniors of their riches.
- Scammers also take advantage of seniors with low income. Why? These criminals trick seniors to take what little they have left, because they’ve convinced them to put it all on the line with the promise of receiving something more.
- Seniors are vulnerable and the demographic most at-risk for declining in physical and mental If a scammer knows the victim will have trouble suspecting a crime or taking action, it’ll be easier to commit fraud.
- Other reasons why abuse, neglect, or exploitation occur are ignorance to technology, unawareness of scamming, loneliness, and overly trusting natures.
Just because you’re a senior doesn’t mean this will happen to you. Stay vigilant and look for signs of senior fraud.
What are the signs of senior fraud to look for?
It’s not impossible to spot the signs of senior fraud or exploitation. If you’re noticing any of the following suspicious activity, report it immediately.
- Constant calls from unknown phone numbers
- Unauthorized individuals asking for Medicare beneficiary information
- Strangers in public places like the grocery store who pretend to recognize you and ask personal questions
- Unexpected guests to your home who don’t have proper identification or work permits
- Missing money or personal property
- Non-scheduled calls from the government
- Calls about winning a sweepstakes or how to earn more money
- Calls stating that a relative has been in an accident or in jail
How to prevent senior fraud from happening
Protecting yourself or a loved one from senior fraud is important. Here are seven ways in which you can be proactive in doing so:
- Avoid sharing personal information online.
Use strong passwords and two-way verification on all sites and apps you’ve signed up for, and always verify a site before typing in your social security number. Be wary of friend requests or messages from strangers.
- Remove your name from telemarketing phone call lists.
The best course of action is simply to not answer when you spot an unknown number, but if you’re getting several of these calls a day, you can sign up for The National Do Not Call registry set up by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). As a general rule of thumb, if you don’t recognize the person on the other end, hang up right away.
- Review financial information closely.
Regardless of whether you pay your bills online or via direct mail, be diligent about noticing changes in bank account statements, credit card activity, utility bills, and any other activity tied to your finances.
- Place your trust and confidence in someone who will advocate for you.
We’d like to believe that most family members and friends are trustworthy allies. Double check any feeling of uncertainty or suspicion with them before sharing personal information or changing wills, deeds, or other legal documents.
- Discuss senior fraud with a financial or legal professional.
Protect your assets and know your rights, with the help of a local professional.
- Stay up to date with the latest news in elder financial abuse.
The National Council on Aging is a great resource for learning the latest tactics being used to commit senior fraud and how you can take action. Check in frequently to make sure you and your loved ones are staying protected.
- Report elder fraud when you see or suspect it.
If you or a loved one has experienced an attempt at senior fraud, report it to the FTC immediately via the National Elder Fraud hotline.