According to the FBI, the elderly are especially sensitive to fraud because they are very likely to keep cash in their homes, and even because some older generations were typically raised to be trusting and polite to everyone. More than any other group, senior citizens are likely to fall prey to telemarketing and online cons.
The FBI also states that older citizens are less likely to report fraud because they are too ashamed, unsure whether they were tricked, or they don’t know how to file a report. Because of all this, we, as the children, relatives, neighbors, and friends of the elderly, need to work together to teach them fraud awareness and help them avoid being scammed.
The most frequent types of fraud to be aware of
Here are six common scams that senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to:
- Investment fraud: Some con artists are specialized in so-called foolproof investments. They operate by gaining clients’ trust and then talking them into investing with promises of high annual returns. Checks from investors usually go to a personal offshore account.
- Fake billing practices: Door-to-door house or vehicle inspections often lead to “discovering” non-existing damages and break-downs. The scam artists then pretend to repair them and ask for a substantial payment.
- Telephone and internet fraud: These types of fraud are very common, and the elderly often fall for them because they have a trusting nature and a desire to help others. A caller sometimes asks for a donation for people in need. In other cases, he or she will say that you are the winner of a large prize and you just need to give your social security number to claim it. They can also sell some products at unrealistic prices. A relatively frequent type of phone call fraud includes medicare scams difficult to spot, especially for the unsuspecting elderly.
- Sales pitch lunches: Salespeople offer “free lunches” for the elderly, asking for an audience for their sales pitch in return. Grandpas and grandmas frequently end up with products they don’t need or want just because they feel grateful for the lunch and awkward to say no to the persistent salespeople.
- Fake friends: Some con artists will go as far as posing as friends to the elderly. They will first help with the errands and chores, while gradually moving to “assisting” with financial tasks, gaining access to accounts.
- Fraud within the family: The most distressing form of a con is the one that includes other family members. This problem occurs when one family member has complete control over the senior’s finances, without allowing others to have an insight into the spending.
Questioning the motives
We are aware that this sounds very cynical and bitter, but both the caregivers and the seniors should question the motives behind the “good deeds.” Talk to your parents about the necessity of asking questions. And don’t be afraid to do the same.
Some things that should always be checked are the identity of the person giving a certain offer and the purpose of the offer. As a caregiver, you can use the available resources to verify the existence of the company and the previous experiences with the person.
The almighty Internet
When we’re talking about the available resources, we mainly think about the data you can find on the Internet. You can check various websites and forums to find experiences of other older adults with con artists and gain support from online communities.
However, the crucial part here is training your parents to use the web. There are plenty of government-funded programs for that if you don’t have enough time to devote attention to training. Give warnings about sharing their personal information online and trusting pop-ups and email links.
The money talk
It is essential to talk to the older family members about finances. The most basic advice you can give is never to give their bank pin code to anyone, and especially not to do it over the phone or computer. But that’s just the beginning.
You need to have deeper conversations that will include investments, financial services, saving plans, and even funeral arrangements, no matter how awkward it could be. During these conversations, make sure you avoid patronizing your parents because they will feel like you don’t trust them with their own money. This can make them ashamed and even angry. Hiring a trustworthy financial advisor who will protect them even from the people closest to them can be useful.
Come up with some tactics in advance
Here are some safety tactics that could put an end to elderly scams. Share them with your parents.
- Sign up for the “Do not call” list and unsubscribe from multiple mailing lists.
- Never buy over the phone, and ask to have all offers in writing.
- Stay involved with the community. By avoiding isolation, you are less likely to become a target for con artists.
Scam artists are preying on the elderly because they see them as vulnerable and overly trusting. Work together with your parents or older family members under your care to educate them about the possibility of fraud and the ways of preventing it.