Common Scams that Target the Elderly and How to Protect Your Loved Ones

From phone scams to email phishing, the occurrence of financial fraud is growing exponentially and is now one of the fastest growing forms of elder abuse. What makes this type of fraud especially damaging is that embarrassment and confusion cause many seniors to let the crime go unreported. How can you protect your elderly family members? The best way to help is to educate yourself on the most common scams.Photo Credit: 1223rf / highwaystarz

Why Seniors are Common Targets

Many seniors have built a small amount of wealth, and thieves know this. They prey on the trusting nature of those who were brought up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Using well-honed skills to manipulate and confuse seniors, criminals will exploit the elderly’s belief in the general good nature of people.

Common Scams that Target the Elderly

There are several common scams that target seniors. Understanding the tactics thieves employ will help you identify fraudulent requests and opportunities.

  1. Grandchild Needs Money
    In this scheme, the criminal pretends to be a grandchild in a desperate situation. Claiming to need bail money or to have been in an accident, the criminal calls with the intent to cause panic. Then, in the midst of the confusion, he or she asks the victim to wire money, leaving the senior out thousands of dollars.
  2. Prescription Drugs
    Many seniors take expensive prescription drugs, and scam artists often use this as an opportunity to trick them. Most of the time, people fall victim to this type of fraud online, where fake websites or ads offer low-cost drugs. Once the senior pays for the drugs with a credit card, the criminals have their money, but the victim will not receive the medicines they ordered.
  3. Email Scams
    Most of us are familiar with scam emails that claim we won a foreign lottery or inherited a royal fortune. But many seniors are too trusting of Internet sites and emails and are willing to hand over personal information, which can then lead to identity theft.
  4. Telephone Scams
    Criminals will call seniors on the phone seeking credit card numbers and other personal and financial information through fake surveys, lottery scams, or phony time-share opportunities. Often, scammers will sell a service or product, but the item never arrives. Recently, criminals have been pretending to be the IRS to get money from seniors.
  5. Fraudulent Repairs
    A roofer or another type of contractor will offer home repairs if the victim will pay for the work in advance. If the scammer does begin the work, he will suddenly find a “more serious issue” and ask for more money, leaving the victim out thousands of dollars with shoddy repairs. In other instances, the scammer will never return after getting the initial payment, moving on to a new town with a new identity.
  6. Using Undue Influence
    In this scenario, seniors are tricked into giving up a home or a bank account. The criminal will convince the victim that this decision will somehow benefit or protect them or their family.
  7. Sweetheart Scams
    These scammers will prey on recently widowed seniors by pretending to be romantically interested in the senior, before ultimately asking for money or expensive gifts.

How to Help Protect Your Loved Ones

You can help your loved ones protect themselves by teaching them the to follow these principles:

  • Be wary of cold calls and unsolicited sales calls.
  • Ask a lot of questions.
  • Do not give out personal information online or over the phone.
  • Don’t make a quick decision about an offer.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau before making a purchase.

To further protect your aging family members, look for large bank withdrawals or unexplained expenses. Also, be wary of new friendships or advisors. Question any will updates or legal documents that your loved one may not understand. If you suspect fraud, notify financial intuitions, call the police, and call Adult Protective Services.

If you fear that your loved one is no longer capable of managing their own finances or making decisions about their estate, it may be time to look into a Guardianship or Conservatorship. Let the attorneys at Gaslowitz Frankel help you decide if one of these options is right for your family. Contact us today for a consultation.