Preventing Elder Abuse
Each year, elders are subject of hundreds of thousands of incidents of scams, cons, and other types of financial abuse. These scams are estimated to lose seniors up to $30 Billion dollars per year of their hard-earned wealth and financial assets. The worst part – yes, this abuse can be by tricksters, fraudsters, or con-artists but also from those the elder loves like family or close friends.
There are ways to prevent this abuse so your family member or loved one doesn’t have to be a victim. Below are some common scams to help you identify if you or someone you know is experiencing them.
- Catfishing scam
- As elders turn more to online services and social media, scam artists make connections and endear themselves as friends to the elderly. This often leads to them asking for money for an emergency like a flight back to the United States.
- Telemarketing or mail fraud
- This scam involves taking advantage of the elderly to sell goods that may never arrive, taking advantage of this age demographic who make purchases over the phone at twice the average of other age groups.
- Phishing scam
- This scam involves using fake emails, calls, or texts to steal personal information. One common way is an elder receiving an email that says it’s from their bank and they need to update their information. This is used to steal their identity and account information.
- Tax Scams
- This scam is where a fraudster calls the elderly to inform them they are past due on taxes and they will be arrested if an amount is not paid immediately. Often, they ask for the amount to be paid via means that are hard to trace, like gift cards.
- Social Security spoofing
- Scammers contact the elders and claim the victim’s social security number has been compromised. They ask the victim to confirm the number or risk the possibility it will be seized or locked down. These scams often involve caller idea spoofing and may appear that the Social Security Administration is calling direct.
How you can recognize potential signs of elder abuse:
- Financial changes
- This could be checks that are missing or check copies that include suspicious signatures
- Changes on or newly executed legal documents like Power of Attorney (POAs), wills, or trusts.
- Unusual or large withdrawals that are out of character or the older person can’t explain.
- Changes in account beneficiaries or authorized signers
- Social changes
- Missing property
- Entry forms or prizes from supposed contests
- Social isolation that is out of character
What to do once you recognize potential elder abuse?
- Contact their bank or credit union. You may not be able to get information about the accounts or transactions unless you’re a signer, POA, or conservator but letting their financial institution become aware of a potential problem is beneficial. Financial employees are trained to recognize potential elder abuse and can help prevent or minimize loss. They can make note of suspicious activity and report it to the appropriate authorities
- Contact Adult Protective Services. This government-affiliated agency is charged with investigating elder abuse reports. To find your state APS office, visit the National Center on Elder Abuse’s website at acl.gov/Resources/State.aspx.
- Alert law enforcement. Contact the police or local sheriff’s office in the victim or loved one’s area.
In addition, to prevent these crimes from happening, Consumerfinance.gov has a great checklist. Use it for yourself or help your family to decide what’s right for their protection. The checklist can be downloaded or printed here.