It’s terrible to think that there are people out there working hard to scam seniors out of their hard-earned money that they’ve spent a lifetime saving for. But the fact is, these con artists exist and seniors make an ideal target for financial abuse. Learn why seniors are targeted, what the most common scams are, and how you can protect yourself from elder financial abuse.
Why Target Seniors?
The aging population makes an ideal target elder financial abuse because of their memory loss, unfamiliarity with technology, and trusting nature. Studies have shown that an aging brain is more trusting one, so senior are naturally more susceptible to fall victim to elder financial abuse. And unfortunately, older Americans often make poor witnesses due to their inability to provide details, making the investigators process of catching the con artists nearly impossible. Besides vulnerability, seniors make an excellent target because the majority are much more financially stable and have higher credit scores than any other age group.
Most Common Elder Financial Abuse Frauds & Scams
Although uncommon, con artists and thieves have been known to take advantage of the elderly just by knocking on their door. They go about it in a variety of ways, but perhaps the most common elder financial abuse fraud is the home repair scam. The home repair scam occurs when one or two people offer a phony service in hopes of wringing some money out of the senior or in hopes of getting an idea of the layout of their home in order to seek for valuables or to rob them at a later date.
This tactic is also sometimes known as the distraction scam. It’s the instance of a stranger approaching you and distracting you in a way in which an accomplice may have the opportunity to walk around freely in your home. However, keep in mind that strangers entering your home is not the only way they can take advantage of you. Con artists claiming to be a part of a fake company or organization may be knocking on your door for the sole purpose of acquiring personal information from you either upfront or by directing you to a website.
Phone Calls & Letters
Scams via phone, emails, and letters are by far the most common. You may see right through those solicitations to send in your information to claim a prize you’ve just won, but could you decipher if a call from a relative who’s in trouble or the IRS demanding money is a scam?
It’s very easy to confuse a family member who’s in trouble when the call is breaking up and the caller is clearly crying and in distress. People are quick to help a loved one in need and act without thinking to verify the situation.
All solicitations that demand immediate payment should be questioned, simply because their authenticity is nearly impossible to determine. Whether it’s the IRS or a charity, verify by going straight to the source.
Websites & Emails
Unfortunately, this is where it gets tricky. Spotting a phony website or email usually requires an expert eye. The most common and most convincing scam is the email from a bank you do business with asking to update or verify your online account. Clicking a link from such an email will lead you to a legitimate-looking website designed to capture your personal banking information. Again, if this happens to you, it is best to first reach out to the source before filling out your information. In most cases, banks will not ask you to verify your banking information in this manner.
How to Protect Yourself From Elder Fraud
The aging population is losing an average of $36 billion a year due to elder financial abuse. Nearly half of those losses comes from frauds and scams targeted towards seniors. And the lack of reports is almost just as big of an issue. Only about 8% of elder financial abuse was reported. But, an estimated amount of 954,000 seniors are suffering from the effects of financial abuse and skipping meals as a result.
Falling victim to a scam does not mean you aren’t capable of living on your own or handling your own finances. Most senior do not report scams because they are too embarrassed. But, it’s important to remember that seniors aren’t the only people falling victim to frauds and scams. Americans of all ages are, but seniors are at the highest risk.
So, what can you do? One way to help others is by reporting frauds and scams that have targeted you in the past. AARP and StopFraud.gov provide excellent lists to report frauds and scams according to type.