Millions of elderly Americans are targeted by financial scam artists every year, and in many cases it’s their own family members who are involved. Tactics that family fraudsters use include threats, intimidation and withholding essential caregiving services, while non-related financial scammers oftentimes resort to email, fake charity, or door-to-door, pay-for-service scams.
If you’re currently caring for an aging in place loved one, knowing how to protect seniors from financial scams is probably a priority. Thankfully, doing so is possible when taking these steps.
Is Your Loved One Being Targeted?
Financial scams come in many shapes, sizes and forms, so it’s important for you as a caregiver to recognize the classic signs. While in your elderly loved one’s home be watchful for:
- Stacks of unopened mail are lying around with unused magazine subscription bills, sweepstakes notifications, boxes containing “free” gifts and other suspicious solicitations.
- Important monthly bills aren’t getting paid, like medical bills, utilities and rent even though you know that your loved one has enough money.
- A new caregiver, notably a family member, is trying to block your access to them.
- There’s a lack of food, toiletries or other essential items in the household.
- They are suddenly acting confused, afraid, or look uncharacteristically unkept.
- There are unusual withdrawals from their bank account, new names have been added to their account, or there are signs of frequent ATM or credit card use.
Once your loved one has been targeted by a financial scammer, unless something changes it won’t take long for their nest egg to disappear. Now it’s time to look at ways to keep them protected against this common form of elder abuse.
Keeping Financial Scammers at Bay
The National Council on Aging (NCOA; www.ncoa.org) has some great advice on how to keep financial scammers from targeting seniors:
- Monitor their bank transactions. With your loved one’s permission, obtain online access to their bank accounts as a custodian so that you can conveniently monitor transactions.
- Add them to the “Do Not Call” list. Doing so should block most phone scam artists.
- Analyze their credit report. Using an online source like www.annualcreditreport.com, review their credit report every 6 months for suspicious activities.
- Discuss any unsolicited offers first. Ask your loved one to avoid speaking with strangers who are offering products or services in exchange for upfront money, including in-home caregivers, until they’ve contact you first.
- Enroll them in direct deposit. Most seniors get monthly Social Security and pension checks, so encourage yours to enroll in direct deposit to keep mailed checks from ending up in the wrong hands.
- Read all contracts first. If your loved one needs some work done around their home, ask to read over all contracts or major purchasing agreements first before they sign on the dotted line. Sell the idea by telling them you were scammed recently, and that you don’t want it to happen to them.
- Shred any non-essential personal documents. Help your senior go through their old personal documents, like tax returns or credit card statements, and shred any non-essential ones that contain their Social Security or account numbers.
- Assign a durable power-of-attorney (POA). Whether it’s you or another trustworthy individual, it’s a good idea for all elderly persons to have a POA in the event they become incapacitated.
If they’ve been compromised. If it appears that your loved one’s personal or banking information was compromised, contact a legal advisor or Adult Protective Services. In addition, notify their bank and credit card company, reset their PINs and cancel all potentially vulnerable debit and credit cards.
We Help Protect At-Home Seniors Against Financial Scams
Protecting an aging in place elderly loved one against financial scams can be challenging when you are busy or live far away. When you need an extra set of eyes and ears, contact Optimal Senior Care Solutions. As a fully licensed and insured home care agency, our fully screened caregivers know how to spot financial scammers while serving as another line of defense that protects your loved one when you’re not there.
While in the home, our highly trained aides can also help your senior with bathing, light housekeeping, dressing, meals, food shopping, medication reminders, transportation and companionship. All our family trusted in-home services can be individually combined within an affordable package that’ll restore your peace of mind! To learn more about Optimal Senior Care Solutions, or to schedule a FREE, in-home care consultation for a senior in this area, please visit us online today!