It’s so dreadful, you almost can’t imagine it can happen to one of your loved ones, but financial fraud has become one of the most common crimes targeting elderly individuals.
Consumers Digest estimates Opens in new window that 5 million people fall prey to elder fraud every year, but only one in 25 cases is reported to authorities. This leaves plenty of perpetrators on the prowl. Here are ways you can protect your own family members from such scams.
Learn to spot abuse
The first step in protecting your parents or other elderly relatives from fraud is making sure you know what these scams look like. Many scams targeting the elderly use familiar-sounding organization names or services that could relate to a topic your parents face on a regular basis, such as Medicare or health insurance. People executing these types of schemes will mention dummy services – a bone density test, for instance – to gain the elderly person’s information. They might then proceed to bill Medicare and collect payment for this service they didn’t provide. Scams could also focus on investments, prescription drugs or reverse mortgages, to name a few.
Other abusers might target elderly folks at their weakest – for example, when a loved one passes away. These scammers will seek out and attend funerals, pretending the deceased owed them money. Or phone fraudsters will take advantage of an elderly person’s loneliness by conversing with him or her until the victim provides valuable personal information.
One of the best ways to learn the ins and outs of these scams is to attend a senior fraud class at your local nursing home or community organization. The Better Business Bureau, banks and consumer safety organizations host a number of different classes that can provide useful details on specific attacks Opens in new window.
Protecting parents who manage their own finances
How you protect your parents depends on how well your mom or dad can manage their finances. If your parents remain in good health, then simply setting up ways to monitor their finances can go a long way.
For instance, many banks have view-only features on credit cards or savings account balances. If your parent has somebody with their best interests in mind and the ability to check in from time to time to view account balances – without having direct access to the account – this can help ensure that no troublingly large withdrawals occur.
Your parents, of course, must agree to a second pair of eyes on their financial accounts. Discussing it with them as a way to ensure their money is safe if they suffer an unexpected health scare can help them understand the need for such oversight.
Also, while your parents are still able, have them decide who will manage their finances if their health fails. Then you can notify their retirement and other accounts of who would gain power of attorney if their health deteriorates – before it does.