February 2, 2021
How To Help Seniors Avoid Getting Swindled
Most of us, regardless of age or station, have clicked on a sham link or momentarily believed we could actually go to jail when someone marauding as the IRS or U.S. Marshal calls. You don’t have to be suffering from Alzheimer’s to be conned, but older adults are disproportionately affected as judgment deteriorates with natural aging or loneliness, and exacerbated by any number of impairments from vision loss to dementia.
Elder financial fraud is on the rise, costing victims billions of dollars annually. Experts are seeing a dramatic uptick since the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even easier to fool those who are isolated and don’t have a second pair of eyes and ears to gut check an interaction.
Seniors can protect their finances by being vigilant, and they often need a helping hand.
One of the best ways to protect against scams is to stay up-to-date on common tricks and talk about them with older adults, helping them recognize a potentially shady situation. Here are some examples, to name a few:
1. Family/caregiver scam: Likely the least reported, yet most common, is when real relatives, acquaintances or trusted vendors like home organizers, caregivers and landscapers persuade the victim to hand over money.
2. Medicare/U.S. Marshals scam: Criminals pose as IRS or Medicare representatives, federal marshals or other law enforcement officials and demand payment to avoid penalties or even arrest.
3. Romance scam: When a a budding romance on dating websites or social media turn out to be con artists get access to the victim’s accounts or persuade them to wire money to help with a fake crisis.
4. Grandparent scam: These crooks pose as a grandchild (or other relative) who needs money immediately to take care of an emergency.
5. Door-to-Door Home Repairs scam: Scammers show up in person to propose a home improvement or repair, charge for the services up front, then never complete the work.
The list of schemes designed to dupe older adults are seemingly endless.
Prevention Is a Team Effort
Lawmakers and agencies have placed a greater emphasis on prevention recently, chipping away at the stigma of falling prey to financial fraud. The Federal Trade Commission’s Pass It On campaign promotes sharing experiences with peers and neighbors (a healthy brand of gossip) with downloadable activity guides and presentations to stimulate conversation. Caregivers and support teams also can receive AARP’s bi-weekly Watchdog Alerts to hear about new scams or check out the educator resources from the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
For seniors who seem overwhelmed or unable to spot suspicious activity, it might make sense to appoint a formal “money advocate.” This can be the family caregiver who is designated to watch over finances or an independent daily money management firm who performs day-to-day personal financial tasks like reviewing mail and paying bills. The money advocate serves a few purposes:
1. Spots suspicious changes in wills or powers of attorney, unusual bank transactions or erroneous bills and fees and keeps meticulous records in case anything needs to be reported.
2. Serves as the go-to person to call when something doesn’t feel right, especially when the victim is being told not to.
3. Plays “bad cop” and confronts bad actors or engages the appropriate authorities to intervene.
4. Escalates concerns to other specialists like the attorney, accountant or financial advisor.
For family caregivers looking to keep closer tabs, it’s important to explore pros and cons of joint or convenience banking accounts, power of attorney and other options.
See Something, Say Something
Reporting incidents might be the most important step to helping seniors avoid the swindle. If predators are successful, reporting needs to happen fast in order to bring charges or recoup losses.
The National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-FRAUD-11 is a great place to start if you believe you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud. An overarching fraud prevention resource provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Hotline can help file official reports at the appropriate local, state and federal agencies, and hopefully stop scammers in their tracks.
Financial stability and maintenance of personal safety are scientifically proven to impact independence among older adults. Service providers across the U.S. have adopted PFMIpro to track these and other risk factors, empowering professional caregivers to deliver appropriate support and data-driven updates to care teams and loved ones. With real time reporting capabilities, agency administrators can also track and report critical performance metrics to funding sources. Connect with the experts and request a demo at www.pfmipro.com.