How to Help Seniors Avoid Financial Fraud and Scams
Anyone can fall victim to scams or fraud, but older adults are more vulnerable in many ways. Caregivers often provide a crucial barrier to protecting older adults from financial fraud. Experts estimate older adults lose over $36 billion annually to fraud and financial abuse. Some fraudsters specifically target older people, especially if they are no longer working or have disabilities that cause them to rely on outside assistance in crucial areas of their lives.
Like any scammers, those who target older adults prey on specific vulnerabilities unique to their community. With the help of caregivers, it’s possible to find ways to protect seniors from fraud and allow them to enjoy their hard-earned savings.
Why Do Older Adults Often Fall Prey to Scams and Fraud?
Older adults can be vulnerable to fraud, making them easy targets. Fraudsters often exclusively target older people for various reasons. Many older adults have a high net worth due to their conscientious savings throughout their working lives.
Older adults are often relatively isolated, and loneliness makes them more likely to accept offers from strangers, as they’re looking for someone to talk to. They are also more likely to find technology challenging, and their lack of understanding can open them to internet fraud. Declining physical health and cognitive functioning can make older adults more vulnerable to scammers. They are either concerned about their health or struggle to make rational decisions under pressure. Caregivers need to understand how to prevent senior fraud and safeguard the well-being of their charges.
Types of Scams and Fraud That Target Older Adults
To stay ahead with senior fraud prevention, knowledge of prevalent scams is vital. Fraudsters are always coming up with new ideas, but some of the more common scams we need to be aware of include:
- Prizes and sweepstakes: These scams falsely inform the older adult they have won or could win a large sum of money. Fraudsters request the person send them money for taxes, processing fees or shipping costs. Once they have completed the online transfer, the person doesn’t receive their prize.
- Tech-support scams: These scams are generally a pop-up on a computer, email or phone call. The fraudster tells the older adult there is a virus or something wrong with their computer or phone. They then ask the victim to do an online money transfer to rectify the problem.
- Lottery scams: With this scam, older adults receive an email or phone call telling them they’ve won a large sum of money or an expensive prize, such as a new car. Scammers require an upfront payment before they’ll transfer the prize.
- Investment scams: Focusing on short-term investments, scammers attempt to convince older adults to invest money online in items such as real estate, precious gems and annuities. In reality, these aren’t investments and don’t provide the returns promised.
- Charity contributions: These scams request older adults donate money to a false charity, often after national disasters. Websites often look incredibly professional, and scammers make requests via email, phone, text or even in person.
- Identity theft: This scam involves stealing an older adult’s identity to apply for credit cards or loans and open bank accounts. Identities are easily stolen online, and fraudsters often target older adults due to considerable savings and good credit scores.
- Grandchild in trouble: In this scam, fraudsters call older adults to tell them a grandchild or other relative has been injured or is otherwise in danger. The scammer then requests they transfer money online to assist. If asked for more information, the scammer claims there isn’t the time or that if they provide the person with more details, their loved one will be in more danger.
- Precious metals scams: These scams commonly start with emails and videos forecasting economic collapse and claiming owning precious metals is the only way to survive. Older adults are encouraged to purchase precious metals with their savings at a massive markup.
- IRS schemes: These scammers contact older adults, claiming they have a tax debt that requires an immediate payment and that they’ll be arrested if they don’t pay. The scammer may attempt to obtain personal banking information or money.
- Widow schemes: These scammers contact recent widows or widowers and claim their deceased spouse owes money. Fraudsters scan obituaries looking for new targets and claim to be financial institution representatives. They prey on older adults’ grief to solicit funds.
- Insurance scams: This scam involves selling older adults policies that duplicate existing coverage. Some fraudsters may hold legitimate licenses and encourage older adults to ensure they have insurance policies for healthcare and funeral costs by purchasing unnecessary policies.
- Health remedies: Marketing miracle cures online to older adults already concerned about their health, these scammers solicit money in return for ineffective medical treatment.
- Romance scams: Targeting lonely older adults online who may have lost a spouse, these scammers create relationships with older people and then ask for money.
Fraudsters are creative and constantly develop new methods to ply their trade. We must take fraud prevention seriously to protect older adults from life-changing losses.
How to Avoid Senior Citizen Scams and Frauds
Although we may not know how to stop senior scams, there are ways to protect older adults from fraud. Stay current on online fraud to identify if it happens to an older adult in your care. Older adults are not necessarily aware of the potential dangers online or on social media. Educate and inform them so they can alert you if they suspect something is amiss. Remind them that people online may not be who they say they are. Some other tips to protect seniors from financial fraud are as follows:
- Ensure only trusted loved ones and financial advisors handle older adults’ banking: Older adults should be discouraged from making large purchases or investments without consulting a trusted third party first.
- Investigate new friends and romances: If an older adult meets a new friend or engages in a new online romance, ensure they are protected. Check that they have updated cybersecurity to prevent phishing.
- Ensure all their banking information is protected: Encourage older adults not to give out personal information online or over the phone, including their Social Security numbers and credit card information.
- Check their credit card statements regularly: Verify with older adults at least once a year that their credit reports are accurate.
- Remove their names from call lists: Telemarketers can be extremely convincing. Ideally, you want to limit their access to older adults as much as possible.
- Exercise extreme caution when shopping online: Help older adults recognize secure, encrypted websites and encourage them to shop exclusively from well-known stores.
- Identify suspicious emails: Emails informing older adults that they’ve won a prize or that there’s a national disaster on the way should be marked as spam and discarded. Encourage older adults to alert you if they receive unknown emails.
- Ensure older adults have identity theft protection: Monitor financial and personal information and have access to assistance if needed.
- Take a keen interest: Stay up to date and check in regularly with older adults so you can monitor their situation and help them feel connected.
Contact Prelude Services for IT Services
Managing IT operations and cybersecurity risks in a senior living facility requires much time and expertise. With older adults significantly at risk for online fraud, providing them with the best tools possible to ensure their well-being is a necessary step.
Prelude Services can provide practical and cost-effective solutions for all your IT and cybersecurity requirements. We offer services for all types of senior living facilities, from skilled nursing facilities and assisted living organizations to independent living homes and continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). If you’d like a free consultation about our extensive managed IT services, don’t hesitate to contact us for dedicated, 24/7 customer service.
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