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Protecting Against Elder Scams

While our elderly loved ones may spend less time on the internet than the rest of the general public, they are still targets for cybercrimes and other scams. Identity theft, Medicare fraud, or financial scams by strangers or close acquaintances can go unnoticed by seniors with little to no online experience.

According to a report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans found that between 2013 and 2019, “financial institutions have reported to the federal government over 180,000 suspicious activities targeting older adults, involving a total of more than $6 billion.” One third of the victims of elder financial exploitation were ages 80 and older. However, adults in their 70s had the highest average monetary loss of over $45k, which was typically even higher when the victim knew the suspect.

Avoiding an Elder Scam

The first step to avoiding elder scams is communication. Talk to the seniors in your life and make sure they have someone, or multiple someones, who they trust overseeing or assisting them with financial matters. Here are a few tips to share with them on avoiding elder scams: 

  • Question everything and double check all sources before responding, giving personal information, or sending money to anyone.
  • If someone calls you asking for information, hang up and call the main phone number for the company to confirm the call was legitimate.
  • Pay close attention to your purchase lists on the monthly statements you receive for credit cards, loans, or bills for fraudulent charges.
  • Contact the credit card companies to ask them to increase the level of security on their accounts or set alerts when your balance goes over a certain amount.
  • Add your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry to avoid direct-sales calls. You may still receive robocalls, but it can help reduce the number of sales calls you receive on average.

Reacting to an Elder Scam

If you find out a senior citizen in your life has already been conned, there are steps they can take to protect themselves after the fact. Suggest or assist them with the following steps to avoid scammers from receiving anything else or trying again at another time:

  • Call the police and report the incident, especially if the fraudster impersonated someone close to you, threatened you, or convinced you to let them inside your home.
  • Contact your bank and/or credit/debit card company to void the fraudulent charges as soon as possible. Ask the representatives to check for any other suspicious charges that you may not have noticed.
  • Change your passwords, and secure your accounts with two-step verification if possible.
  • File a complaint of fraud with the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Scammers are smart and people of all ages are victims of cybercrime every single day. There is nothing to be ashamed about if you or a loved one have been the victim of a cyber scam. The simplest way to avoid these scams is to communicate with your loved ones about the dangers of elder scams and make sure financial responsibility is shared only with trustworthy individuals.

Willow River is Here to Help

At Willow River, we understand the challenges that Alzheimer’s and dementia can bring. If you have questions or need help, Willow River has the answers and resources you need. Call Willow River Senior Living at 888-546-1886 or contact us through our website to start the conversation today.