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How to Protect the Elderly From Fraud & Financial Exploitation

Watching a loved one fall victim to a scam is heartbreaking. Con artists deliberately target the elderly by exploiting vulnerabilities, loneliness, and trust. Their fraudulent schemes can cause devastating financial and emotional consequences.

The good news is that you have the power to protect your elderly loved ones from falling prey to fraud. A little education and open communication can make all the difference in keeping them safe.

Read on to learn how you can help protect older adults from falling prey to a financial scam.

Common Scams Targeting the Elderly

Scammers are constantly evolving their tactics to deceive and manipulate their victims. While their methods may vary, they often exploit the trust, loneliness, and vulnerabilities of older adults. It’s crucial to stay informed about the most prevalent schemes to protect your loved ones better.

Here are five common scams that every caregiver should be aware of:

The Tech Support Scam

  • How it works: A scammer claims to be from a known tech company. They say your computer is infected and needs immediate fixing for a fee.
  • Tactics: Creating a sense of urgency, using technical jargon to confuse, and pressuring for payment information.

The Grandchild Scam

  • How it works: A scammer poses as a distressed grandchild needing money urgently for an emergency (accident, arrest, etc.).
  • Tactics: Playing on emotions, requesting secrecy, asking for wire transfers or gift cards.

Medicare Imposter Scams

  • How it works: Scammers pose as Medicare representatives to obtain personal information like social security numbers. They might offer bogus services or threaten to cancel benefits if the information or payment is unavailable.
  • Tactics: Using official-sounding language, creating fear of losing benefits, and requesting immediate action.

Lottery or Sweepstakes Scams

  • How it works: The victim is told they won a large prize but must pay taxes, processing, or delivery fees before claiming their winnings.
  • Tactics: Excitement over ‘winning,’ promises of vast wealth, pressure to act quickly to not miss out on the prize.

Home Repair Scams

  • How it Works: Scammers offer home repairs at low upfront costs. They pressure the victim for payment, do shoddy work, or never complete the job.
  • Tactics: Creating a sense of urgency (storm damage, limited-time offers), using personable charm, asking for upfront payment.

Empower Your Elderly Loved Ones With Education

Having open and honest conversations about scams is essential in protecting your elderly loved ones. When discussing the risks, it’s important to approach the topic without being condescending.

One effective way to start the conversation is by mentioning that you’ve heard news reports about the increasing prevalence of scams. This can naturally lead to a discussion about how to spot suspicious emails, phone calls, and social media messages.

During these conversations, emphasize the importance of thinking before acting on any financial requests. Encourage your loved ones to consult with you or another trusted individual before giving out personal information, sending money, or clicking on suspicious links. Remind them that legitimate businesses will never pressure them to make immediate decisions.

Scammers often use phrases like “Act Now or Lose Out!” to create a false sense of urgency and bypass rational thinking. Teach your loved ones to recognize these red flags and respond with a simple phrase like, “Thank you for the information. I will verify this independently and get back to you if interested.” This empowers them to resist impulsive decisions and take control of the situation.

Create a Support System

Building a strong network of support is crucial in protecting your elderly loved ones from scams. This network should include regular communication, monitoring for unusual behavior or signs of fraud, and encouraging social engagement.

If an older adult lives alone, frequent check-ins can help you identify any red flags or changes in behavior that may indicate a scammer has targeted them. During these conversations, discuss their daily activities, any new contacts or friendships, and any concerns they may have.

Safeguarding your loved one’s finances is another essential aspect of this network. Consider adding a trusted contact to their credit union or bank accounts, enabling the institution to reach out if they suspect fraudulent activity. This extra layer of security can help prevent financial losses and provide peace of mind.

Encouraging your loved one to participate in social activities and community groups is equally important. Strong social connections can reduce isolation, improve overall well-being, and provide an additional network of people who can help spot potential scams or unusual behavior.

Where to Report Fraud

If your elderly loved one becomes a scam victim, it’s crucial to report the crime to the proper authorities. Reporting helps disrupt scammers’ operations and prevents others from falling into the same trap.

Provide your loved one with a list of relevant agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission, local law enforcement, and Adult Protective Services. This will make the reporting process easier for them.

When discussing the importance of reporting, reassure your loved one that being victimized is not a sign of weakness or stupidity. Scammers are skilled manipulators who exploit trust and vulnerabilities. Stress that reporting the crime protects others and holds the perpetrators accountable.

Signs Your Loved One May Be a Victim

Be attentive to changes in your elderly loved one’s behavior, which may indicate they’ve fallen victim to a scam. Red flags include newfound secrecy around finances, sudden account withdrawals, or unusual purchases. These subtle signs can be easy to miss, so staying vigilant and communicating regularly with your loved one is crucial.

If you suspect your loved one is being targeted, approach the topic gently and without accusation. Express your concern and offer to help them review their accounts for any suspicious activity.

If fraud has occurred, guide them through the process of reporting it to the proper authorities. Remember, your support and understanding can make all the difference in helping them navigate this difficult situation.

Providing Emotional Support

Falling victim to a scam can be emotionally devastating and can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, and loss of trust. As a caregiver, it’s essential to approach the situation with compassion and understanding, even if you feel frustrated or angry about what happened. Reassure your loved one that the scam was not their fault and that you support them through this challenging time.

Help your loved one take steps to regain control and security. Offer to assist them in thoroughly reviewing their finances, contacting their bank or credit union, and taking measures to prevent future scams. Provide them with resources such as support groups or counseling services, to help them cope with the emotional impact of the experience.

Safeguarding Our Loved Ones

Protecting the elderly from fraud is a community effort. By being informed, staying vigilant, and fostering open communication, we can create stronger safeguards for our vulnerable loved ones.

Freedom Credit Union is here to support our members. If you feel that you or your loved one has been a victim of fraud, contact our Loss Prevention Department at (215) 612-5978.