Tips to Protect Against Elder Fraud and Exploitation
Unfortunately, the golden years come with elder fraud and exploitation. Scammers target older adults because they are less likely to be tech-savvy and they may have a lifetime of money at their disposal.
Elder fraud is an act targeting older adults by deceiving them with promises of goods, services, or financial benefits that do not exist or were never intended to be provided. Financial exploitation is the illegal or improper use of an older adult's funds or property.
Elder fraud doesn’t just put the older population at risk – family members may lose property or assets if they are co-signed on a fraudulent loan with the older victim. This can lead to falling credit scores and a financial headache for everyone involved.
Elder fraud costs victims $1.7 billion each year, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Report. And more worrying, 90% of all fraudulent and scam activity happens with people we know and trust.
Here are a few ways you can be alert to the warning signs of elder fraud for yourself and your loved ones.
How to Identify Elder Scams
Scams have one thing in common – they want your personal information. Whether that be through phone impersonations or in-person scammers, they all need access to your accounts. Some common scams that target the elderly:
The Grandparent Scam. Scammers call their target prepared with the names and personal information of family members. The scammer will then call the grandparent and ask for financial assistance pretending to be a grandchild. Usually, the “grandchild” will be in some sort of dire trouble.
The Romance Scam. Scammers target online widowers on dating websites and apps, or they may contact you through social media sites like Facebook. They strike up a relationship to build trust and eventually they ask for financial help. They never meet you in person and will adjust their story to work in particular situations.
Red Flags for Suspicious Activity
Some warning signs you or a loved one may have fallen victim to elder scams include:
- Receiving unusual and unsolicited correspondence from a known organization such as government services.
- Winning a contest you didn’t enter.
- Being told there’s a problem with your account plus verifying information and to act quickly.
- Receiving odd instructions on payment such as gift cards or money wire.
How to Identify Financial Exploitation
Financial exploitation most often occurs in a seemingly trusted relationship, such as a victim’s family member, caretaker or neighbor. Often individuals suffering from financial exploitation are isolated from others. Perpetrators prey upon the elderly or vulnerable adults, such as someone who has recently lost a spouse or an individual with a disability. Social media can be a hunting ground for offenders targeting victims, impersonating a friend from the past, or a new love connection.
Red Flags for Suspicious Activity
Some warning signs you or a loved one may have fallen victim to financial exploitation include:
- Items missing from your home.
- Money missing from your accounts.
- Large wire transfers coming in and out.
- Suspicious debit card transactions and withdraws.
- Sudden Transfer of Deeds or Power of Attorney.
- Applying for credit cards or loans they don't need.
- Opening new CashApp or Venmo accounts.
More subtle signs might include someone unexpectedly appearing in a victim's life, such as a loved one suddenly getting visits or phone calls from someone you don’t know.
Many times, victims of financial exploitation are embarrassed, causing them to withdraw from their usual activities or close relationships. Some may even be aware they are being taken advantage of but are too afraid of the consequences of losing a relationship with their abuser, who may be a family member or close friend, to say anything.
How to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones
These are some actions you can take in protecting yourself and your loved ones from financial exploitation:
- Add a joint signer to your accounts
- Visit your county’s Adult Protective Services to connect with an advocate
- Visit The Department of Justice's website, a federal initiative assisting the elderly
Adding a joint signer to your account allows you to have a second set of eyes on your transactions that can help you be mindful of any fraudulent activity. If you or your loved one doesn't have anyone to fulfill this role, we’re here to help. We can connect you to an organization focused on protecting vulnerable adults.
Ensure your financial safety by never sending money to anyone you have not met in person. Don't fall victim to a scammer contacting you through social media in need of funds for any reason. Perpetrators take advantage of isolated individuals by offering them the promise of love or companionship. Staying in regular contact with the elderly or vulnerable adults in your life reminds them they are not alone.
If you think you have been a victim of financial exploitation or a scam, come into CommunityAmerica today. We have the tools to guide you out of financial loss.
Latest Podcast: Learn more tips for protecting yourself from fraud by listening to our podcast.