Financial abuse is on the rise in the United States, and our aging population is often the most vulnerable. In 2014, 2.5 million fraud-related consumer complaints were logged in the Consumer Sentinel Network database. Those 50 and older made up 49% of complaints reporting a record $1.7 billion in losses. A majority of the fraud cases started with the victim receiving a phone call and email was the second most common contact method.
Cognitive impairments or dementia often makes it easier for seniors to become confused or forgetful. They may ask themselves, “Did I pay the gardener last week in cash? Have I written that check for the rent already?” A lonely, home-bound senior may assume that a friendly “bank representative” who calls has the best of intentions when in fact he is hoping to commit fraud and identity theft.
There are plenty of ways to make sure that you or your loved one’s hard-earned investments remain safe and secure. The age old phrase “listen to your gut” is still an excellent guide to knowing if there is something that needs your attention. For example: are you or is your parent receiving packages that no one remembers ordering? Does a representative keep calling you or your loved one insisting that the mortgage has been moved to a new bank? Don’t ignore or underestimate any strange or disconcerting incidents; take action and follow some straightforward guidelines.
Wait Before Sending Money and Ask For Help
Scammers prey on the emotions of those they contact, and imposter fraud scams often sound plausible, which is why they work so well! The all-too-common grandparent scam starts with a frantic call from what sounds like a grandchild in jail who needs bail money immediately with the plea, “Don’t tell mom and dad, they’d be so angry.”
In Josef’s case it was a financial scam. A savvy 89-year-old, he initially felt good about contributing into a special fund that his distant cousin had encouraged him to try. However, after he transferred the money, he became increasingly distraught; he realized that he had been bilked out of $12,000. His heath suffered and he questioned his judgment, which had always been excellent.
Rebecca Paul, Esq., Director of Seniors At Home’s Fiduciary Services Department says, “It’s very common for a senior to know their scammer, whether it’s an old colleague that has re-appeared after many years out of touch, or the cousin who lives in Europe and suddenly needs emergency surgery.” Remember, making a quick emotional decision may cost you. Before sending money contact family and friends in order to check out the story and get a second opinion, even if the caller sounds desperate for urgent action.
Never give financial information over the phone. Banks and lending organizations won’t call requesting personal information over the phone like social security numbers, credit card numbers, or a date of birth. Nor will a bank or lender send text messages requesting a call on a special phone number. (As Americans spend more time on our smart phones text message scams are on the rise too.)
For extra security make sure your home phone number is added to the national Do Not Call Register or call 888-382-1222 to register your phone number.
Professional Help Keeps Finances Safe
Hiring a licensed fiduciary (or money manager) may be an excellent option. After Josef lost money from the investment fraud he decided to sign on with Seniors At Home Fiduciary Services. He receives help with paying bills, sorting out his health insurance and medical-claims, and budget planning.
Meeting with his account manager once a month means Josef maintains control of his finances, but with a professional making sure that everything is order and his finances are safe. Seniors At Home’s Fiduciary Services can also identify and investigate fraud, evaluate government benefits, and provide services that are flexible and individualized.
Stay Educated on New Fraud Tactics
There are plenty of online resources to keep you aware of common scams. By visiting AARP’s Fraud Watch Network map you can stay up-to-date on newly reported financial frauds in your area, and sign up to receive frequent fraud alerts and prevention tips.
By adding a layer of scrutiny to any call, text, email or letter received, you will be sure to keep your money, and your identity, out of the wrong hands.
To find out how Seniors At Home Fiduciary Services help our clients stay safe call: 415-449-3777.