Protecting yourself or a loved one from being a victim of elder fraud can seem like a daunting task. We have prepared a list of resources, tools, and warning signs that will help you identify and prevent it from happening. To start, let’s define what elder fraud is:
“Elder financial abuse is committed when someone improperly, unethically, or illegally accesses a senior’s funds, property, or assets for personal gain.”
Targets are often chosen based on their mental health, age, living arrangements, education, and physical health. The repercussions can be both financial and emotional. In addition to potential identity theft, stolen funds, or debt accrual, the deception and loss that occurs can be detrimental to the victim. It is important to be vigilant in your efforts to prevent this type of fraud from happening.
Unfortunately, it is not always committed by internet scammers, but can also be perpetrated by caregivers, business professionals, friends, and even family. Recognizing the signs of elder fraud will help protect you and your loved ones.
It is also worth noting that just because an elderly person gives permission, does not mean that elder fraud is not being committed. Taking advantage of an elderly person who is physically or mentally impaired, or reliant on others is a punishable offense.
Here are frequent examples of elder fraud:
- Cashing checks on behalf of a person, with or without their knowledge
- Forging signatures on documents
- Misusing funds or stealing possessions
- Coercing or deceiving an elder person into signing a document
- Convincing them to sign on to a risky business venture for another person’s gain
There are often several methods that fraudsters will use to contact their victims including in person, over the phone, and the internet via email, pop ups, and online dating sites.
Some common scams include:
IRS Impersonation Scam: A scammer will identify themselves as an IRS agent and use scare tactics to scam an individual into paying taxes and fines that do not exist.
Grandparent Scam: The scammer says something has happened to the victim’s grandchild. They claim they are their friend and need funds to get out of the situation (bail money, for example), and they are too embarrassed to say anything themselves.
Sweepstakes/Lottery Scam: The victim is told they have won a sum of money or a trip, but before accessing the funds, they must wire the taxes that is owed on the trip or sum first.
Charity Scam: A phony charity will call or email an individual asking for donations for a charity that does not exist.
Tech Support Scam: Pop ups will appear on screen and require the victim to click a button to receive tech support for the issue. There computer will then be hacked, and all personal information is stolen.
Sweetheart/Online Dating Scam: Individuals searching for companionship will build a relationship online with someone, then wire them money for a plane ticket, rent, or whatever else they say they need.
Ways you can prevent fraud:
- Check the legitimacy of businesses and charities online by using the following sites:
- Block calls—if the same number is calling repeatedly, and they are requesting personal or account information, block their phone number.
- Check around for other offers and deals that are similar—most deals that are too good to be true are.
- Check in regularly with loved ones
- Watch for warning signs—fraudsters will often avoid your questions about verifying their identity. If they won’t let you hang up and call them back or do further research before handing over sensitive information, they are likely a scammer.
- Give out personal info to people you may not trust
- Respond to emails asking for personal info
- Click on pop ups unless they are from a trusted source
- Send money
- Use strong passwords that include a mix of lower- and upper-case letters, numbers and symbols
- Avoid sharing passwords
- Report missing or stolen credit or debit cards immediately
- Prohibit strangers from using personal computers or devices.
- Do not access private or financial information over a public or unsecured internet connection. Websites using SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption always show a web address that starts with “https://” which indicates that you are on a secure site.
Need extra resources?
Are you in need of a financial caregiver, or may need one in the future? Learn how to plan for a financial caregiver.
Are you the financial caregiver for a loved one, but not sure what all that entails? Here are the expectations of a financial caregiver.
Do you know that you will be a financial caregiver in the future? Learn how to prepare for the responsibilities of a financial caregiver.