Families worry about many factors related to a senior loved one’s well-being. From home safety to nutritious eating, keeping an older family member safe and healthy at home takes time and continuous monitoring.
One crucial concern to stay on top of is scams targeting seniors. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), this type of crime is on the rise. The DOJ established ten regional Elder Justice Task Forces to identify and deal with fraud targeting seniors.
If you are a caregiver for an older friend or family member, learning more about common scams is important.
5 Common Scams Targeting Older Adults
1. Identity theft
This type of crime is making headlines more often. It happens when a criminal accesses personal information and uses it for financial gain. For example, a thief may steal a senior’s Medicare card or driver’s license. This allows them to open credit card accounts, steal tax refunds, or even access medical care.
By helping a senior loved one find a secure place to store sensitive medical, financial, and personal information, you can lower their risk for becoming a victim. Also, remind the older adult not to keep these items in their purse or wallet unless they need to use them that day.
The Federal Trade Commission developed a website with helpful information and resources for fighting identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to stay updated on warning signs of scams or learn what to do if you or a loved one has been victimized.
2. Phishing emails
As more older adults use email and social media, the number of seniors falling victim to phishing scams is climbing. Phishing emails are fraudulent emails that look realistic. Criminals pretend to be from an older adult’s bank or credit card company and send an email directing them to a fake site.
The best way to prevent becoming a victim is to encourage your family member to never open an email from a financial institution no matter how realistic they look. Also remind them to never click on links in an email.
Seniors should also be coached to delete chain emails, even from friends, without opening them. They often contain viruses and scams.
Hacking is another scam that can lead to financial losses for older adults. Those who aren’t comfortable with technology are perceived to be easy targets, especially with devices like cell phones and tablets.
Protect yourself by using strong passwords and making sure apps and system software is updated. While these updates can be confusing and time-consuming, most increase security.
4. Sweepstakes prize scams
While these scams aren’t new, people continue to fall for them. Older adults can be especially vulnerable. They may receive a phone call claiming the senior has won a fabulous prize, such as a car or trip. Fake sweepstakes prize notifications come in the mail, too.
The winner is asked to pay a delivery fee or taxes before their prize can be released. In the end, there is no prize and the person loses whatever money they turned over. In 2017 alone, sweepstakes-style scams cost Americans a staggering $111 million.
5. Door-to-door fraud
Warm weather and sunnier climates bring out door-to-door thieves. Because they believe older adults are more vulnerable than younger people, criminals often target neighborhoods known to be home to many seniors.
Popular scams include:
- Magazine sales, sometimes using children and teens as salespeople, which require money or credit card information. No magazines ever arrive.
- Home improvement projects like driveway sealing or roof repair where a hefty deposit is required upfront. The scammer may start a project and not finish or take the money and never return.
- Pretending to be a utility service worker checking on a neighborhood gas leak or similar emergency. They gain access to the home and rob the senior.
Residents of a senior living community benefit from security measures that prevent solicitations like these.
The bottom line is it is important for adult children and family caregivers to be on guard for scams like these and to educate senior loved ones. One way to make that easier is to bookmark the Clearwater Living Blog where we share the latest news on aging, senior safety, caregiving, and more. Stop back often to stay up to date!
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