Unfortunately, seniors can be easy targets for fraud. Scams threaten seniors’ assets and independence, and can cause emotional and physical harm.
Fraud can happen over the phone, via mail, in person or on the internet. Senior citizens are more readily available to scammers, because they tend to be home during the day, read their mail and answer the phone.
Seniors often are lonely, so they may be glad someone is calling. They may think it is rude to hang up. Scammers may call about a problem with an account and ask for updated information or a password. If the senior gives out personal information, such as verifying their Social Security number, scammers can match that with phone numbers, home address, etc., and take out home loans or open credit cards.
Charity calls also are common, with callers stating they are from a reputable organization, asking for donations. Sometimes, fraudulent calls are for medical supplies. Callers will take medical cards or personal accounts and charge for supplies that are never delivered. Sweepstakes and prizes also are a common mailed scam.
Scammers may come to a senior citizen’s house to make home repairs or pretend to be from a utility company. They may enter the home and steal valuables or pretend to make unnecessary repairs for large sums of money.
Here are a few ways to protect your elderly loved one’s assets:
- Remind them to never give out personal information, such as bank account numbers and Social Security numbers, unless they initiated the call.
- Get your loved one an unlisted number. You also can put their number on the National Do Not Call List.
- Insist they hang up immediately if they get a solicitation call.
- Shred documents such as bank statements, credit card statements and offers.
- Post a “No Solicitation” sign on the senior’s front door.
- If you live in a different state, have a trusted friend or neighbor check on your loved one. Often, scammers prey on individuals they feel are more isolated, so their scam will go unnoticed.
Seniors are under attack daily from criminals who attempt to steal their money, identification or property. Don’t hesitate to contact local law enforcement if you think someone has or is trying to scam your loved one. If they have been the victim of fraud, they may be embarrassed or fear losing their independence. Be patient with your loved one, but act swiftly to prevent a lifetime of savings from being taken by a criminal.