Financial Elder Abuse – How to Protect Your Parents from Being Scammed
Seniors are targeted in scams more often than any other age group. In fact, one in five Americans over the age of 65 has fallen victim to a scam. Elder financial abuse costs seniors in the United States $2.9 billion per year, with each instance of financial abuse costing $30,000 on average.
Identifying elder financial abuse is difficult because, as people advance in age, more and more live alone. The combination of social isolation and slight decline in memory makes seniors especially vulnerable targets for scammers.
Senior living communities with an emphasis on independent living can provide a safe, fulfilling environment while reducing the social isolation many older adults experience. Of course, even if your parents have made the move to a senior living community, it’s still important to stay vigilant and take the proper precautions to prevent financial elder abuse.
Recognize the Forms of Financial Elder Abuse
The Federal Trade Commission has identified the most prevalent forms of fraud:
- Sweepstakes, prize promotions and lotteries
- Timeshare sales and re-sales
- Health care products and services
- Investments, business opportunities and work-from-home programs
- Technical support services
- Charitable donations
Talk to your parents about these potential scenarios. Even failed attempts at financial exploitation should be reported to authorities so that the scammers can’t move onto other targets. It is estimated that only 1 in 44 instances of elder financial abuse is reported.
Talk About What Scammers Want
Scammers often try to secure sensitive personal information, such as bank account or social security numbers. It’s important to talk to your parents about what scammers are after, so they are prepared with responses to protect themselves.
For example, certain scammers will claim that the target is a lucky winner, but then ask for money to cover handling charges, taxes or something similar. Others will claim that a faraway grandchild is in trouble and needs money wired right away. Discussing the various schemes will make it easier for your parents to recognize and properly respond to attempted fraud.
Remind them that it’s good practice to never give personal information over the phone.
The National Crime Prevention Council recommends that older adults should tell suspicious callers that they want to discuss the offer with friends and family before making a decision.
Participate in the financial planning process so that your family can work together as your parents adapt to older age. That way, if one of your parents loses the ability to manage their money, the transition isn’t more complicated than it has to be.
The danger of financial elder abuse is at its highest when your parents are most isolated and vulnerable. According to recent data, seniors who simply discussed their finances with a friend, family member or professional were significantly more likely to take measures to prevent financial elder abuse.
It’s important to designate a trusted and qualified person to help manage and monitor finances so that fraud doesn’t go unnoticed. But it’s also necessary to surround your parents with the support structure they need to be safe. The last thing they should have to be worried about in retirement is financial elder abuse.
Melrose Meadows is a certified assisted and independent living community in Iowa City, Iowa. We pride ourselves on providing a senior living community that supports an independent lifestyle in a vibrant all-inclusive setting. Schedule a tour today and let us help you navigate the options for your future.