Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Preventing Elder Financial Abuse

We owe our elders a debt of gratitude. They raised us, provided for us, and paved the way for our future success. Yet despite all that they have done for us, they are routinely taken advantage of by scam artists and other criminals. Financial abuse is one of the biggest challenges our senior population faces. Because they may be confused, embarrassed, or afraid to report crimes against them, seniors are often low-risk targets for financial scammers.

Keep reading to learn more about financial elder abuse and how you can help protect your aging family members from falling victim to common financial schemes, courtesy of our Lake of the Ozarks bank.

Why Seniors?

There are several reasons why seniors are attractive targets for scam artists. For example...
  • Seniors are more likely to have a great number of financial resources at their disposal, such as retirement accounts and owning their own home.
  • Generally, the generation raised in the 1930s-1950s was taught to be trusting and polite. Scammers exploit these traits.
  • Seniors may be afraid to report incidents because they don't want their families to think they are no longer able to care for themselves.

Examples Of Common Scams

Scam artists use a variety of different schemes to prey upon the elderly. Here are a few examples:
  • Email, Sweepstakes, & Telemarketing Scams - Seniors may receive a phone call or email telling them they have won a lottery or a sweepstakes that requires upfront charges. Alternatively, they may be asked to send money to a stranger (scammer) as part of a financial windfall that will be split with them. They may also receive a call from a fake government agency that is trying to get access to seniors' government benefits or social security numbers for identity theft purposes.
  • The Grandparent Scam - A scammer pretends to be a police officer or medical professional, saying that their grandchild is in need of urgent financial assistance due to medical or legal trouble. Alternatively, the scammer may pretend to be the grandchild in question.
  • Repair Fraud - A scammer may pretend to be a repairman offering services that require an upfront payment. Often, the services are unneeded (and never provided).
  • Funeral & Cemetery Scams - A scammer contacts the surviving spouse of a recently deceased individual, claiming that the deceased had an outstanding debt that needs to be repaid.

How To Handle Scam Attempts

Since email and telemarketing scams are the most common types of elder financial abuse, we are going to look specifically at some steps that can be taken to prevent these scam artists from successfully taking advantage of their victims. The National Crime Prevention Council outlines the following five ways to get rid of unwanted telemarketers:
  1. Never give out personal information (bank account, social security number, etc) over the phone, unless you initiated the phone call and know that you've reached the right agency.
    1. Alternative Response: "I'm sorry, but I don't give out personal information over the phone. I will contact the company directly."
  2. Don't believe callers who say that your winnings require advance money to cover "handling charges" or taxes. 
    1. Alternative Response: "If it's free, as you claim, I shouldn't have to pay for it."
  3. Don't feel pressured into acting quickly to take advantage of "limited-time" offers.
    1. Alternative Response: "I'll think about it and call you back soon. What's your number?"
  4. Don't trust anyone who tells you not to discuss their offer with other people.
    1. Alternative Response: "I am going to discuss your proposition with my close family/friends. I'll get back to you."
  5. Don't rely on verbal details alone. If you have something in writing, you may be able to pursue some sort of legal recourse if you are taken advantage of.
    1. Alternative Response: "I can't make a decision until I see something in writing."

Remember, if someone is calling with a legitimate request, there shouldn't be any issue with you calling them back. (Scam artists, on the other hand, will often pressure you to take action immediately.) You can also remind the seniors in your life that they can (and should) ask unwanted telemarketers to remove them from their call lists. Telemarketing agencies are legally required to oblige to this request - if they don't, they are breaking the law.

What You Can Do

If you are closely related to or friends with a senior, talk to them and tell them that they are always welcome to approach you with questions about bizarre phone calls or emails they may have received. Stress that there are scam artists out there who may try to take advantage of them, and that they should always be skeptical of calls/emails requesting money or sensitive information. Offer to provide a "sanity check" on any strange or unusual requests they may receive.

What are your other tips and strategies for preventing elder financial abuse? Share your insights with us in the comments below!

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First Bank of the Lake - Striving For Excellence
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Osage Beach, MO 65065

(573) 348-2265

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