Avoiding Senior Scams: Protecting Your Loved One from Financial Abuse

Over the last decade, financial scams against seniors have increased significantly, and have become what many consider the crime of the 21st century. According to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), one in every 20 seniors falls victim to some kind of financial exploitation. Sadly, in today’s society, we need to be attentive to the financial safety of our older loved ones.

Diane Reier, Lifestyle Specialist at Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights, a senior living community in Prospect Heights, IL, explains why scammers tend to target seniors in particular.

“Seniors are a vulnerable group when up against sophisticated scamming technology,” says Reier. “Without a full understanding of Internet safety, seniors can fall victim to online scams and fraud.

“Scammers often target seniors because of their vulnerability. Older adults grew up in a time when it was easier to trust others, and when the technology scammers use didn’t exist yet. Scammers capitalize on this, as well as the perception that older adults are trusting and gullible and might have some kind of cognitive impairment, such as dementia. Sadly, individuals living with Alzheimer’s often struggle with making sound judgments with their finances and do fall victim to financial exploitation.

“On top of this,” Reier adds, “the senior demographic is an ideal target for financial scams and identity theft because it’s assumed that seniors have a lot of money stashed away in savings accounts and investment funds.”

If you have an older loved one who may be at risk of financial abuse, or you want to learn more about protecting yourself and your assets, learn to recognize scammers’ common tactics so you can start fighting against fraud.

Scams and Schemes Commonly Used on Seniors

Another advantage scammers have when it comes to exploiting seniors is their targets’ accessibility. Older adults are often actively connected to programs involved with their retirement, whether those be health and life insurance, refinancing for retirement or selling their home to move to an assisted living community. Scammers have crafted several ways of getting their hands on seniors’ personal information. A few of these popular tactics include:

  • Medicare Scams – Scammers pose as representatives on the phone and ask for their target’s personal information, or scam artists provide fake services at a makeshift clinic, bill Medicare using the senior’s information and pocket the money.
  • Counterfeit Prescription Drugs – Scammers will sell bogus drugs over the Internet to seniors looking for lower prices for their prescriptions. Sometimes, these drugs are made of harmful substances that can seriously harm the victim.
  • Funeral Scams – Disreputable funeral agencies have taken advantage of a deceased person’s family by capitalizing on their unfamiliarity with funeral costs, overcharging them or insisting they pay for products and services they don’t need.
  • Telemarketing Scams – Scammers will call targets pretending to be representatives from the IRS, their insurance company or hospitals, insisting that they provide their personal information and bank account information or wire money in order to avoid an issue. Others may even pretend to be the person’s grandchild and ask them to wire them money to help them out of trouble.
  • Internet Fraud – Scammers create false advertisements for anti-virus software or prizes that, when clicked on, download a virus that takes personal information off the computer. Others will sell fake programs for a significant price and con their victims.
  • Investment Schemes – As seniors look for ways to invest their money for their later years or to pass on to children, scammers jump in with “too good to be true” investment opportunities.
  • Sweepstakes & Lottery Schemes – Scammers call to announce that their target has won a significant prize, and all they need to do is pay a fee or verify their personal information in order to claim it.

Once a scammer has access to a person’s bank account information, credit card number or social security number, they can steal their victim’s identity and wipe their accounts dry. Since many of these schemes are untraceable, victims of this kind of financial abuse often have no way of recovering their lost assets, so the best way to protect seniors against this kind of fraud is to prevent it from working.

Best Ways to Avoid Senior Scams & Financial Fraud

Awareness and caution are the greatest tools seniors have against the onslaught of scammers. When you know how to recognize a scam, you’re more likely to know when it’s time to hang up the phone or question the scammer’s authority. Other great ways to keep scammers away and protect your finances include regularly checking your account transactions and balances, getting Caller ID or signing up for the Do Not Call list, only using trusted and secure websites or purchasing identity theft protection.

If you’re caring for an older loved one who may be more vulnerable to scams due to cognitive decline, you can still help keep their finances secure. In addition to the strategies above:

  • Talk to them about scam tactics. Warn them never to give out personal information over the phone or wire money to someone they do not know. Help them avoid Internet scams by bookmarking the websites they use frequently (such as email) and blocking pop-ups.
  • Keep an eye on their financial activity. Ask to see their bank statements or credit card bills regularly. If you think your loved one is very much at risk, consider becoming their legal guardian so you can protect their finances and assets.
  • If someone comes into your loved one’s house to clean or care for them, make sure you interview them thoroughly first to ensure they are trustworthy. Not all financial scams occur over the phone or on the Internet. Sometimes, those who seniors think they can trust the most are the ones who have the greatest ability to exploit them.

Staying Safe from Scams

“If you suspect that you or a loved one has fallen victim to identity theft, fraud, scams or any other form of financial abuse, don’t hesitate to report it,” says Reier. “Call the police or your local Adult Protective Services agency. Every report can help law enforcement track down and stop scams from happening in the future.

“And remember, just like other kinds of abuse, financial abuse is a personal attack. It can leave the victim feeling ashamed, depressed or even more vulnerable, and because of this, fraud against seniors often goes unreported. However, recovering from a scam requires support, so don’t be afraid to tell someone who can help you. If you have a loved one who you suspect has been scammed, encourage them to talk to you about it, and ensure them that you will help them avoid another attack.”

If you would like more information on seniors’ security threats or guidance on what to do if your loved one is a victim of a scam, the team at Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights would be glad to offer the help and resources you need.

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also welcome you to share any caregiving insights or experiences in our comments section.

Live Well. Age Well. Be Well.

Offering Independent, Assisted Living and A Knew Day Memory Support, Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights is a distinctive senior living community designed to offer seniors residing in the Chicago Northwest Suburbs area a fresh alternative to “typical” senior living communities.

Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights provides residents with the ideal balance of personalized support, dignified privacy and enhanced independence complemented by luxurious amenities and our life-enriching, award-winning VIVA!SM programming by Pathway to Living®.

Managed by Pathway to Living®, an innovator in senior living, Aspired Living® offers the choice of a private studio or a one- or two-bedroom apartment and the beauty of a brand new community, stunningly appointed and decorated for unsurpassed comfort and style by the award-winning senior living design firm, Thoma-Holec Design, Inc.

For more information, please call Diane at 847-243-6920.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.