How to protect elderly relatives from financial scams

Library | 4/21/2020
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Financial exploitation of older people is a significant and growing problem in the US. Unfortunately, seniors are often targeted for scams because they may have savings they’ve built up over the years, were raised to be polite and trusting, and are typically less likely to report a scam than a younger person. This may be because they don’t know who to report it to, are ashamed of being scammed, or don’t realize that they’ve been a victim.

    

Because of this, scams against the elderly are significantly under-reported, meaning the problem is likely far more prevalent than we know. If you have an elderly parent, grandparent or relative you care about, there are steps you can take to help prevent them from falling prey to scammers and protect the money they’ve spent a lifetime to gain.

    
    

Here are some prevention tips

  • If possible, talk to your loved one about their finances so you have a sense of what they have saved and what their typical expenses are. Work with them to make a plan that designates power of attorney and other health care directives. Although this can feel like a difficult conversation, it’s important to plan for the future to safeguard your loved one’s assets.

  • Don’t let your relative become isolated – fraudsters especially prey on seniors without good support systems. Be sure to call, email and visit regularly and keep informed. The closer you are with your relative, the easier it will be to notice when something is not right.

  • If your parent or relative has a caregiver, develop a relationship with that caregiver – let them know that you are paying attention. Unfortunately, most financial elder abuse is caused by a relative or caregiver, not a stranger.

  • Ask to become a trusted contact so that you can monitor your relative’s bank account or brokerage activity. That way, you’ll notice if there are large or unusual withdrawals. You may also want to have your relative sign up for a financial protection service, such as EverSafe, which tracks financial activity and can notify an advocate (like you) of unusual withdrawals or spending.


 

Warning signs of financial abuse

Another way to help protect your older relative from financial abuse is to watch out for the following warning signs, such as:

   
  • Unusual changes in the person’s accounts, including atypical withdrawals, a new person(s) added, or unusual use of their ATM or credit card

  • Essential bills going unpaid despite adequate income

  • An accumulation of sweepstakes mailings, magazine subscriptions, or “free gifts,” which means they may be on lists that exploit the elderly

  • Additionally, if you notice changes with your loved one suddenly appearing confused, disheveled or afraid, or if a relative or caregiver won’t let you see or talk to your loved one, you have cause to suspect elder abuse.

  • If you do suspect your loved one is being abused, neglected or exploited, contact the Adult Protective Services (APS) program in your state to make a report. The reporter’s identity is protected and APS services are confidential.

   
   

How seniors can protect themselves

If your relative is still living independently, there are some tips you can share with them to protect themselves. Tell them to:

  • Never to buy from or give out any information to anyone who calls or visits unannounced. Specifically, never give out their credit card numbers, bank account numbers, social security number, Medicare information or any other personal/financial information unless they have initiated the call.

  • Sign up for the Do Not Call list (http://www.donotcall.gov/) and unsubscribe from multiple mailing lists (and email lists) to reduce the number of solicitations.

  • Set up direct deposit for their benefits checks so there is no chance of the checks being stolen from a mailbox or taken by a relative or caregiver who volunteers to cash them.

  • Be skeptical of all unsolicited offers (or winning a prize) – read all the fine print, understand refund policies, and don’t let anyone or any offer pressure you to act.

  • Never sign any documents you don’t understand.

 

At Valley, we are committed to helping you in the fight against identity theft and fraud. By adopting strict and comprehensive policies on information security and privacy, we can help protect our customers from becoming victims of these crimes. Learn more and if you suspect you or a loved one has been a victim of a scam, contact us.

   
  
     
     
Scams to be aware of during a pandemic
How to protect yourself from fraud

Scams to be aware of during a pandemic

In times like these, scammers will often take advantage of unsuspecting customers. While we use some of the most sophisticated security measures available to protect you and your money, you need to be aware of certain scams that can put you at risk.

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