Elder abuse and financial exploitation of seniors continue to be growing problems in the United States. Below, we describe common scams and provide tips to help protect you and your loved ones.
Surprisingly, most incidents of fraud against older Americans are committed not by strangers, but by family members or trusted individuals. Typically, these crimes involve stealing from victims' wallets, bank accounts, or homes where the family member or individual has easy access. These perpetrators often are adult children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews, caregivers, or household staff.
Senior victims of financial fraud may show warning signs of abuse. Victims may exhibit a change in personality, sometimes becoming withdrawn from family and friends due to shame or embarrassment. They may have sudden changes in their financial situation, such as bills going unpaid. Another warning sign to look for is a caregiver who starts limiting or denying access to friends and family.
Common Scams Targeting Seniors
- Telemarketing, phone, and email scams
Many scams are perpetrated over the phone. Con artists prey on older adults by claiming to represent a legitimate entity like the IRS, Medicare, a charity, or a lottery, or by impersonating the victim's own grandchildren. The caller will use fear tactics or the promise of prize money to get the victim to send money or to give up personal information. These same scams can also be committed over the internet through email, websites, or social media.
- Investment schemes
Phony investment schemes are often presented to seniors with guarantees of great returns on their investment. These scams may even boast celebrity endorsements to further create the appearance of credibility.
- Lonely hearts scam
Many older adults are widows or widowers and may suffer from loneliness. In these cases, beware of new "friends" in person or over the internet offering love and companionship. These scammers gain the victim's trust and then steal money, identity, or property before disappearing.
- Computer virus tactic
This scheme involves a con artist calling or emailing a victim to notify the person of a harmful virus on his or her personal computer. The criminal will attempt to gain remote access to the individual's computer and steal personal and financial information, which is then used to commit fraud.
- Counterfeit prescription drugs or beauty treatments
Seniors may go online looking for better deals on medications or anti-aging products and inadvertently purchase counterfeit or fraudulent products. It may take some time for the victim to realize they have been duped and by that time, the scammer has disappeared. These scams not only hurt a victim's wallet, but can be potentially dangerous to their health.
These are just a few examples of the scams targeting seniors. Stay aware of the latest trends and information by visiting any of the following organizations online:
· National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA): www.ncea.acl.gov
· U.S. Administration on Aging–Eldercare Locator: www.eldercare.acl.gov
· National Council on Aging (NCOA): www.ncoa.org
· Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: www.consumerfinance.gov
· AARP: www.aarp.org
Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones from Fraud
By following the practices listed below, you can reduce your risk of becoming a victim of fraud.
· Safeguard bank accounts and personal information.
· Never give out personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call (e.g., SSN, banking or credit card account information, Medicare or insurance information).
· Shred receipts and statements with credit card numbers or banking information.
· Create an online bank account to monitor activity closely.
· Ask your bank or investment manager if they offer account activity notifications.
· Utilize privacy settings online and on social media to protect your personal information.
· Ensure that the websites you visit are secure by verifying that the website address starts with https:// or has an image of a closed padlock.
· Monitor your credit reports and credit score.
· Consult the Federal Trade Commission for information on free credit reports (consumer.ftc.gov).
· Do your research before making investments or purchases.
· Read through legal documents, contracts, or purchasing agreements before signing them.
· Consider using a password manager to help secure your online accounts.
· Review financial statements with a reputable and trusted advisor. .
· Add your phone number to the national Do Not Call Registry.
· Require background checks for caregivers, personal assistants, or household staff.
Report Any Suspected Elder Abuse
If you suspect that you or a loved one has been the victim of financial exploitation or abuse, you may report the incident using the information provided below.
· Call local law enforcement and adult protective services.
· Contact the AARP Fraud Watch Helpline to share your incident and receive assistance: 1.877.908.3360.
· Call the National Telemarketing Victims Call Center if you are a victim of Mass Marketing Frauds: 1.855.322.9218. The NTVCC offers education, safety tips, and local agency referrals to help protect seniors.
· Submit a complaint about a suspicious company or business practice to the Federal Trade Commission: ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
· Submit a complaint of financial fraud to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: consumerfinance.gov.
Cumberland Trust has a dedicated trust administration team to support our senior clients and their families. The individuals on this team have the experience and compassion needed to provide extra assistance to those clients who may need it, and to support families through life's transitions.
Call or email Jean Jackson for more information and/or to arrange an office visit: 423-664-9747 or email@example.com. Visit our website (www.cumberlandtrust.com) to learn more about Cumberland Trust's services, our teams, and general information about trusts and estate administration.
Victims may exhibit a change in personality, sometimes becoming withdrawn from family and friends due to shame or embarrassment.
For more information:
Call or email Jean Jackson for more information and/or to arrange an office visit: 423-664-9747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.