We all want to protect our loved ones from danger, but it’s impossible to be with them every moment of the day. And unfortunate as it is, scam artists see your aging Mom or Dad as an easy target, knowing full well that elderly individuals are more likely to fall for their scams. Elder fraud often goes unreported, but it’s estimated that over $40 billion is stolen from America’s seniors every year (according to Fraud.org), and, due to a lack of proper senior citizen fraud protection in place, this figure is increasing. Families and friends are fighting back and providing their loved ones with senior citizen fraud protection tips and tools to combat these elder fraud scam artists.
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How can you help your parents fight back against elder fraud? Aside from a quick lesson in senior citizen fraud protection, a handy cheat sheet by all the phones or computers in the home is often the best way to avoid these common elder fraud tricks, which include the following top ten ways to beat the bad guys.
What to Include on Your Senior Citizen Fraud Protection Cheat Sheet
Avoid sending money or providing personal financial information.
Be cautious who you disclose your bank account, credit card, and social security numbers to. Suspicious, but realistic looking checks made out for a considerable amount of money should be an elder fraud red flag. Your parents should know that if they weren’t expecting a check, it could be a fake. Tell your loved ones if they have concerns related to this type of senior citizen fraud that protection comes from asking someone they trust for help. Checks such as these are usually accompanied with directions instructing the recipient to call a phone number. The message tells the caller to send taxes on the money he or she just received through a wire transfer service. The scam, of course, is that once the recipient sends the money, their check bounces.
Do not speak at length with people who are unfamiliar to you –
Tell your parents to decline answering questions of a private matter over the phone, Internet, or at the door. Above all, the key to senior citizen fraud protection is caution. If a telemarketer who is pushing a product begins asking for too much information, tell your loved one to request the name of his or her employer, the address, and a phone number. If a caller asks to speak to the man of the house and there isn’t one, tell your mother never to indicate that she lives alone.
Do not sign any documents without reviewing them carefully.
Your loved one can often be signed up for something he or she may not be interested in and begin receiving phone calls that solicit other products. If anything appears suspect, tell your loved one to contact his or her lawyer or a trusted friend immediately. Many elder fraud con artists will pose as door-to-door salesmen and try to sell your loved one something on the spot, introducing multiple new products and a whirl of paperwork that needs to be signed now and paid for to ‘secure’ it. This potential elder fraud ploy is dangerous, because the friendly salesman is no longer some distant threat with no face; he appears to be knowledgeable and trustworthy. Tell your parents one of the most important senior citizen fraud protection tools available to them is not to allow anyone into the home they don’t know.
Make sure to verify all claims.
One of the newest elder fraud alerts is related to home construction or improvement, and much like any other industry, scams abound. The best senior citizen fraud protection tip in this instance is to use a well-known contractor in the area. Tell your parents to request references and contact the Better Business Bureau or the National Fraud Information Center if they’re unsure. Create a contract and make sure the work is carried out to the letter; a fly-by-night scheme will probably try to talk down the contract, but if it’s in writing, your loved one ultimately has more recourse. And if the contractor wants the money upfront, tell your loved one to move on to the next choice.
Reach out for help before investing or spending considerable amounts of money.
Tell your loved one to call you with questions about any investment that involves a significant transfer of money or shares. In many cases, the American Association of Retired Persons can be a lifesaver; this organization regularly sends out information on the latest elder fraud schemes and offers senior citizen fraud protection tips as well as financial planning assistance and consumer rights, all of which can help your parents judiciously decide on various offers and purchases.