Four Ways to Protect Yourself & Loved Ones from Financial Fraud – Dana Lambert
The incidence of financial fraud perpetrated on our seniors is sharply rising, and it will take “a village” to keep the seniors in our families and communities safe.
With dementia on the rise, as our seniors live longer, the risks become even more complicated. But in my experience, the seniors with no symptoms of dementia are at risk almost as much as those with memory/judgement impairment.
Our generation of elders were often raised to be trusting, respectful and highly responsible.
This makes them especially susceptible to scams about:
- banking and owing money to the IRS.
- Home repairs is another common area where seniors can be very easily taken advantage.
- A widow who is intent on keeping up her home may easily fall prey to an unscrupulous tree trimming or roofing company.
- Service people in the home present another level of risk, as it is natural to develop a relationship over time. I recently had a client “lend” cash to an in home caregiver, after hearing her talk about her financial woes. He said he “just wanted to help her”.
One insidious scam involves a call saying the senior has a family member who has been arrested and needs money for bail.
The caller can be highly skilled at picking up clues and obtaining information, leaving the senior convinced the caller was in the police station of the small Caribbean island where their grandson was sleeping on the floor and too embarrassed to ask his parents for help after getting into trouble during a bachelor party trip.
Imagine your loved one getting a call, with lots of noise in the background, the caller with a heavy accent, telling them their grandson is in big trouble and needs help.
The automatic response is, “Which grandson? Is it Paul or Rick?”, and the call spirals from there, with the caller filling in the conversation with tidbits the senior has shared without realizing it.
And the clincher is that the caller says the cash must be wired via a specific service with little or no oversight (think Wal-Mart or other money transfer services) and the grandson has begged them not to tell anyone, especially family members, since he is so ashamed.
The caller says, “He told me you are the only one he can trust to help him right now.”, and the scam is complete.
I know a very intelligent, loving grandmother who sent her “grandson” $2,500 before she broke down and confessed to her husband how worried she was for him. The grandfather was not the trusting type, and quickly checked out the story, but by that time, it was too late to pull back the transfer and the police said there was nothing they could do.
Consider having a conversation with your seniors, telling them the basics of what scammers try to do.
- They work hard to capitalize on fear of legal/financial problems, fears about safety and security of family members and the age old notion of bullying. Anytime someone tells them something that causes them to feel afraid, for themselves or loved ones, that is a sure sign that they need to check it out with someone else, regardless of threats.
Place a note by the phone that reads something like, “Do not EVER give your account number or social security/Medicare number over the phone. The IRS and your bank will not ask for this information by phone.”
- This has been surprisingly helpful as a reminder, and has saved several seniors from making what could have been huge mistakes.
Ask them if they would be willing to go over their financial statements with you, or their accountant monthly or quarterly.
- (Many seniors are reluctant to open their books to others, so this can be a tricky one. Having your name on their accounts is the only legal way for the institution to give you information, unless you have a signed Power of Attorney document on file with them.)
Offer to help them get bids from professionals for all service and repair work, and then make sure the service company sends you both the bid and the bill.
- While we don’t want our elders to live in fear, giving them a heads up about some of the ways their peers are being taken advantage of can help them be more wary of those who would harm them.
If your family needs help starting the conversation about financial vulnerability, consider calling AgeWise. We can help you create talking points or even join you for the conversation, to help your elder see wisdom in finding ways to protect themselves from scams and other forms of fraud.