We all know that the world we live in today is not what it used to be. Continuously, we hear stories on the news about technology’s growth and the dangers it possesses, from cyber attacks and bullying to scams and fraudulent acts targeting people all over the world.
Law enforcement is trying to crack down but according to Mr. Alwin, Vice President of Economic Security, with technologies rapid growth financial scams have become “the crime of the 21st century”. So who is affected by this type of cyber attacks? Well according to the National Center for Victims of Crime, “Americans age 65 and older are more likely to be targeted by scam artists” than any other age group in the world. As retirees many of the elder generation are alone, isolated and vulnerable for human interaction creating a big bulls eye for scammers to swoop in on their prey.
Carefully targeted, this specific age group is chosen due to their limitations that stem from their older age. Con artists know that the elderly have a higher chance of making poor witnesses due to their fading memory and limited amount of detailed information.
Unfortunately the vast majority of fraudulent cases go unreported due to a victim being too ashamed to seek help or they don’t know who to call. Seniors are afraid they could lose their independence, they don’t want to worry their family, they fear their loved ones will assume they no longer have the mental capacity to take care of themselves and that they could take away their freedom.
So how can you protect them from this type of devastation?
The first step to safeguarding your loved one’s financial security is to communicate. Discuss with your relatives the dangers of scams and what to look out for. Inform them that paying fees for winning a contest, winning a raffle get-a-way without ever applying, believing a phone call from the government needs “additional information”, are all shams. Remind them that fraudsters heavily target them and to be aware of their social interactions as close as possible.
Here are some of the most common scams that victimize seniors.
Perpetrators may pose as someone in connection to the medical field that would not alarm you if they call to ask for information. This could include but is not limited to Medicare representatives, insurance companies, a billing department, medical equipment, a doctor’s office, even a pharmacy.
Beware of callers or mail regarding funeral billings that claim you have an outstanding debt for a recent deceased significant other or relative. In this type of case, remember that the majority of the time you are not held responsible for those costs and most of those payments are done previously to the service. If you have any questions or concerns, hang up and contact the funeral home directly.
Avoid false advertisements, lotto winnings, even charities looking for personal information. It’s difficult to truly know who you are talking to on the other line or through a computer screen, so be weary. Avoid out of area callers or verifying personal information over the phone or through emails. Even avoid pop-up windows that could contain viruses. If you have a computer, please make sure you and your loved ones have a verified firewall by an accredited corporation. You could even go as far as to unlist your phone number and opt-out of the Direct Marketing Association contact list to refrain from unwanted callers contacting you.
Scammers will research your family and obtain an elderly’s number to call and pretend to be a relative. They will establish a false identity and state an emotional story behind why they need your financial assistance. They will try to convince you not to call their “parents” in attempt to get you fall into thinking it really is a grandchild of yours in need. Make sure you always find out the true story before helping anyone over the phone. Call other family members; make sure the person who called is who they say they are and that they really do need the assistance. Do not give in to emotional begging and definitely do not feel the urgency to make any sudden money exchanges. If it really is family they will understand the hesitation.
Power of attorney
Be aware of even those you trust when it involves your financial stability. Thousands of seniors have lost money from their bank accounts by putting the power of attorney into the wrong hands. Some may say that they will assist you with your bills by helping you manage your money but by doing so this grants them significant power over your investments. Many elderly people are unaware of what this position truly entails, trusting their relative or neighbor and not properly reading through all of the documents. Make sure if you want someone to help you will your finances to have a trusted lawyer to review the documents with you and cover all aspects of transactions even if you fully trust the person you’re handing that position to. It’s vital to know every aspect of your finances and your loved ones will honor that decision.
Although these are just a few, there are many more revolving issues that our society has unfortunately fallen victim to. However if you feel as though you or a loved one have in fact been targets of a scam of any kind, make sure you do the following.
1) Collect information
Make sure you save any contact information you can find. This includes phone numbers, emails, how they claimed they found you, what they said and what kind of information they stated about you or what information you may have given them
2) Inform police
After collecting the information you have on a scammer, make sure you immediately call your local authorities to give them everything you know. Remember, this is nothing to be embarrassed about. Scammers are very sharp witted individuals who have fooled many others. Although it is not exactly comforting to know you’re not the only one who has been targeted, you can find comfort knowing that with your help you can protect others from what they could or might have done to you. Trust the police and they will help you through this difficult time.
3) Contact your bank
Make sure you inform your bank of any issues you think you might potentially have and ask them about your options to protect your account. Let them know in advance to make sure that they contact you right away if any odd withdrawals are attempted to be made. It is essential that you maintain a strong relationship with your bank so that you are fully aware of any suspicious activity with your account at all times.
4) Call Adult Protective Services/AARP
Although it may be a sensitive subject, you have to reach out and report any financial abuse that has happened to you. Whether it be from a family member, friend, or stranger; Adult Protective Services and AARP’s Fraud Fighter call center will make sure to get you the help you need.
Con artists are everywhere and with growing technology they can now access your information at the drop of a dime. Just remember the phrase, “stranger danger”; never give your personal information out for any reason, especially your social security number, driver’s license number, or even your address. Also make sure your private documents are hidden in a safe location, pay attention to your bank accounts and investments, keep up to date on your credit report and make sure to talk to your loved ones. It’s important to know someone is there for you to help you prepare for such devastating acts and start protecting yourself today.
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