Unfortunately, in today’s world, scams have become a large issue to contend with, especially where seniors are concerned. Usually scams are directed toward older members of the population, as they can to be an easier target. When looking at the amount of scams out there, you’ll find that most of them are financially related. This is obviously important because these scams can greatly impact a persons’ future financial resources and well-being. Fortunately, there are ways to help loved ones and senior parents avoid these scams. Below you’ll find a few simple steps on how to acknowledge, approach and defend elder loved ones from possibly damaging scams.
What are financial scams?
Largely considered to be the fastest growing form of elder abuse, financial scams are when a person (either family, friend or stranger) improperly or illegally uses a seniors’ money or other property. Here’s a list of a few of the ways more common senior scams are committed today.
• Counterfeit prescription drugs
• Medicare and health insurance fraud
• Telemarketing (most common form of scam practiced every year)
• Fake accident ploy
• Charity scams
• Internet fraud
• Investment schemes
• Reverse mortgage scams
• Lottery scams
In most states, financial scams that target seniors are considered a crime, making it not only important to understand the scam but also to report the person responsible for the scam’s practice.
Why are seniors targeted?
As we age, some of our primary senses can start to degrade. This can be a small or large part of our hearing, or a loss of ability to understand ideas or scenarios. In fact, over half of people over the age of 75 report that it is often difficult to hear conversations on a daily basis. Seniors also tend to lose their ability to concentrate for a long period of time, making them susceptible to misinformation and intentional confusion.
How to talk to your parents about scams
First, before having a real conversation with your parents or loved one, it’s important to get your own financial situation under control. This is simply because parents and others, especially seniors, are less likely to lean on you for help, let alone accept any form of financial advice if they feel that you do not understand your own finances. Additionally, here are some ways to efficiently talk to your senior parents about scams.
• When a parent receives a piece of scam mail, don’t just tell them to throw out
the letter. Take time to look through the letter and discuss why it is scam mail. That way they’ll know what to look for in the next next batch of mail they recieve.
• Remind them what they taught you as a kid growing up – “never trust strangers”. Though this may seem like a simple concept, it’s one that goes a long way for all ages.
• When discussing possible phone scams, teach them to never give out financial numbers, accounts and other important pieces of information to anyone over the phone unless they had initiated the call on their own. For example, banks do not call a customer and ask for financial information to which they already have access.
Steps to prevent scams
Though financial scams are very common, there are a few easy and quick ways to help prevent loved ones from unknowingly becoming involved in a scam.
•Check their credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com to make sure that there aren’t any new accounts that have been added under their names. If checked on a regular basis, you should be able to stop this type of fraud before it begins or at least right when it starts.
•Take your parents’ phone number(s) off of any list you think it may be on, even phone books. Even better, replace their landline with a cell phone. Landlines are easy targets for scammers while cell phones are currently less often targeted.
•Put your parents’ address on the opt-out lists associated with the Direct Marking Association. This list makes it so that legitimate vendors will cease to send junk mail. Then potential scam junk mail can be easily identified and reported to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
If talking to your parents or loved ones about financial scams becomes difficult and, or doesn’t lead to an agreement on how to prevent future scams, a call to AARP might be helpful. The staff at AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center (800-646-2283) are professionally trained to speak with elders about how to effectively avoid scams and scam artists. Sometimes speaking with a professional makes more sense to a senior than speaking with a loved one.
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