As we age, we become more vulnerable to fraud in various forms. It’s important to educate yourself about the latest scams and how to avoid becoming a victim.
Why Are Seniors More Vulnerable?
There are many reasons that tie into why seniors are targeted and why they may be more susceptible to scammers.
The first is that senior citizens hold approximately 83% of the wealth in the US, making this a profitable group to target for scammers.
The second reason is that changes occur in the brain as we age. In even the sharpest minds, there is something that occurs that makes seniors more likely to give away their money, savings, and retirement in ways they wouldn’t have when they were younger. This is a phenomenon named “age-associated vulnerability” by physician Mark Lachs of Weill-Cornell Medicine. In their research, they discovered that even in the absence of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, seniors still become more susceptible to financial exploitation as they age.
Other factors are cultural, societal, and situational. For example, a senior citizen that is socially isolated is more likely to fall victim to fraud.
How To Protect Yourself
Financial abuse can come in many forms, from fake lottery schemes, stolen jewelry, and credit card misuse to investment scams and identity theft. When most people think of dealing with fraud, they envision a stranger calling them and pretending to be someone else. Sadly, most swindlers aren’t strangers at all.
According to the National center on Elder Abuse, 90 percent of perpetrators are family, neighbors, friends, or caregivers.
If you or someone you love are aging, here are some warning signs to help you recognize vulnerability so that you can take extra precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones.
- Deteriorating knowledge about major financial issues
- Physical frailty
- Questionable behavior from relatives
You may be surprised to see a few of these on the list, but physical frailty typically invites more services into the home as the individual can no longer keep up with chores around the house. With more services comes the opportunity for scammers to take money without performing a service or even price gouging for a service performed.
What To Do
Most cases of elder financial abuse go unreported, which is a tragedy. Seniors are collectively losing millions of dollars per year and sometimes their life’s savings.
If you suspect financial abuse or are a victim yourself, don’t waste time in confronting the responsible person(s) and getting the authorities involved.
The National Center on Elder Abuse is a great resource to point residents in any state to their elder abuse hotline.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority also has a toll-free help line (844-57-HELPS, or 844-574-3577) that older people can call if they have questions about their investment accounts.
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free “watchdog alerts” or call their toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.
Scams To Watch Out For In 2020
1. Employment Scams
If someone is calling you to offer you a job you didn’t apply for, it’s most likely a scam.
2. Census Scams
Scammers pose as census takers and ask for your social security number or other sensitive information.
3. Election Scams
Imposters pretend to be part of fundraising campaigns for political parties in order to gather sensitive payment information.
4. Medicare Fraud
This one can come in many forms. Some people will receive a call stating that they can get free DNA swabs to test for cancer, along with other medical services. Their goal is to get Medicare information.
5. Phishing Scams
Scammers often use Amazon for this one because of the volume of items sold by the online giant. They will often state that a package is being held until the credit card can be confirmed.
6. COVID-19 Scams
New for 2020 are scams preying on the fear surrounding COVID-19. You might get an email offering a vaccine with the urgency to protect yourself.