Today, more than 70 percent of the wealth in the US is in the hands of senior adults aged 50 and above. Unfortunately, elder financial abuse (read: fraud and scams) has been on the rise in recent years. In fact, according to a glaring report by Bloomberg, American seniors lose an average of a whopping $37 billion annually to an array of fraud schemes and scams, including online scammers, telephone pitchers, “gold diggers”, and even ill-mannered family members.
Take Marjorie Jones, an 82-year-old Texan, for instance. She ended up committing suicide after “sweepstake” fraudsters conned her of every penny she had. Stories like that of Marjorie Jones are all too common, and will likely to become more rampant in today’s increasingly digital world.
As a caregiver in Alexandria, you’re at a vantage position to protect seniors from financial fraud and scams. Here are six tips that might come in handy.
#1. Make Sure to Check their Credit History Yearly
This is especially important for family caregivers who are usually busy and can’t keep track of their older loved one’s daily spending and financials. Ensure to get your hands on a copy of your senior adult’s credit report once a year. The good thing is that the 3 major credit reporting bureaus – namely Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian – allow you to get a copy for free once every year. Once you have the copy, sit down and go through the report together to fish out any discrepancies and signs of financial fraud.
If there seems to be an error in the report, rectify it immediately and report any fraud to relevant authorities.
#2. Be There Always
Stay connected and get involved in your older adult’s life. This will help you stay on top of their financials and potentially protect your older loved one from the risks linked to loneliness and isolation, most notably gambling, scams, and fraud.
#3. Invest in a Shredder
It might sound trivial, but a shredder can make a huge difference. You senior will be able to shred all unwanted financial statements, receipts, credit card offers, and other things that make them susceptible to fraud.
#4. Stay in the Know of your Senior’s Acquaintances, Romance, and Friendships
New friends and romantic partners can help keep stress, loneliness, and isolation at bay from your older adult’s life. However, they can also be an avenue for scammers and fraudsters. Beware of new friends or romantic partners who seem to be more interested in the senior’s finances than developing a healthy relationship.
#5. Be on the Lookout for Any Sign of Financial Fraud
It can be hard to tell, but there are many signs that can help you zero in on elder financial abuse early. These signs include:
- Withdrawal of huge amounts by an otherwise frugal adult person
- Sudden frequent visits to ATM
- Sudden inability to pay bills
- Sudden increase in collection calls
The list goes on and on. It’s best to trust your instinct.
#6. Educate your Older Loved about Social Media and Online Fraud
Online scams targeted at seniors is on an uptick. That’s why you need to teach your loved one about social media and online frauds that they might fall prey to. Intimate them with key red flags like fake friends, overseas wire transfer, Western Union transfers, etc.