Scammers love to prey on the elderly
A True Link Report on Elder Financial Abuse 2015 states that seniors lose roughly $36.4 billion each year to financial scams and outright theft. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, the average fraud case is $30,000. Of all financial abuse cases, more than 35% is targeted to those age 65 or over. High on the list of targets are those who live alone, have assets, and are suffering from health issues. Women are the most exploited because they live longer than men and tend to be the most trusting.
Here are some indicators from the Institute on Aging that your parents may be victims of financial fraud:
• Suddenly they have a new friend
• They are skipping meals, keeping the lights turned off, unable to purchase medicine, have no money for excursions, hobbies, traveling, all of which was never a problem in the past
• There is a sudden change in financial transactions, such as checks being written to unknown recipients or new friends, establishment of a new joint-account at the bank
• Large credit card transactions, way out of line with their normal usage and spending habits
Holidays are high-season for scammers
Now with the holidays approaching, scam artists are more active than ever, offering free gifts in exchange for lifetime subscriptions to useless magazines or newspapers, or for switching or ordering a new credit card, opening an account with a department store, etc. all avenues for accessing private financial information. Particularly onerous are charitable telemarketing calls, such as those for adopting children in third-world countries.
Ten easy ways you can protect your parents
Statistics indicate that the most vulnerable seniors are those who do not talk about what is going on in their lives—they do not want to give up their autonomy. An Allianz survey of seniors over the age of 65 who had been victimized by financial fraud found that only 8% were discussing their finances with family or professionals.
1. Talk to your parents about their finances. Go gently. Do not attack or accuse. Begin by sharing stories that you have read or seen on television about financial scammers or the latest fraud scheme and slowly work into a conversation to discover whether they have experienced any such attempts or worse, fallen victim to a scam.
2. Set up a system with your parents of what to do when a salesman comes knocking and pushes to sell a product or service that must be paid for on the spot.
3. Speak to them about how to be safe from scammers: to not give out credit card information, social security number or details of their bank account over the telephone.
4. Set up a durable power of attorney for yourself to handle your parents’ bank accounts, make sure the bank has orders to call you before any unusual transactions.
5. Set up electronic banking and cancel all paper trails.
6. Go over the credit card statement every month and discuss the charges. If your parent is beginning to have some memory loss, urge them to put all receipts right away into a special drawer for comparison later.
7. Arrange a regular time to talk about and review the monthly financial reports, bills, bank statements, etc. that arrive electronically or in the mail.
8. Once a year, conduct an audit of your parents’ financial condition, including banking, investments, insurance, and mortgage records.
9. If you parents are very ill or displaying early signs of dementia:
• Forward all mail to your address
• Set them up with a pre-paid credit card
• Petition a court to appoint you as conservator which will give you the authority to take control of their finances.
10. Report right away any instance of fraud or abuse.