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Safeguarding Seniors: How to Spot and Prevent Elder Fraud

Elder fraud is no small concern, with the FBI reporting a staggering $900M+ loss for Americans aged 60 and above in 2020 due to scams. And this is not just limited to the U.S.; it’s a global concern as cybercriminals increasingly exploit online scams to target older adults, particularly those living independently. The financial implications of falling victim to scams are evident. Losses can deplete retirement savings, disrupt plans for inheritance, or compromise daily expenses such as bill payments and groceries.

Identifying Elder Fraud Schemes

Fraudsters employ an array of methods to exploit individuals, but understanding common types of financial scams targeting older adults is key to safeguarding against them.

  1. Dating Deception: Con artists build fake online identities, engage victims through dating apps or social media, and then manipulate them into providing financial assistance under false pretenses.
  2. Technical Trickery: Scammers impersonate technical support, using phone calls, emails, texts, or pop-up windows to deceive victims into sharing personal information or granting remote access to their devices.
  3. Grandparent Fraud: Swindlers pose as family members in need of urgent financial assistance, leveraging personal information to gain trust.
  4. Government Impersonation: Fraudsters pretend to represent government agencies like the IRS, using threats of fines or legal action to coerce victims into sharing sensitive information.
  5. Prize Scams: Scammers inform victims of a supposed prize win, urging them to send money for “shipping” or provide personal information.
  6. Home Repair Hoaxes: Con artists offer home repair services but often disappear after receiving upfront payment, leaving work unfinished.
  7. Investment Illusion Scams: Frauds promise significant profits through real estate seminars or investment programs, enticing victims to make financial commitments.
  8. Caregiver Fraud: Trusted family members or caregivers exploit seniors, financially abusing them through various means.

Recognizing the Warning Signs

Many scams share common traits that can help you identify potential fraud:

  • Unsolicited correspondence from familiar organizations, often mimicking official communication.
  • Unexpected contest winnings when you didn’t participate.
  • Requests to fix nonexistent account problems.
  • Pressure for immediate action or decisions.
  • Specific instructions on payment methods.
  • Requests to keep secrets.
  • Unusual emotional connections with online acquaintances.

Protecting Yourself from Scams

To shield yourself from scams online, over the phone, or in person, consider these preventive measures:

  • Avoid clicking on suspicious links or attachments.
  • Keep your security software updated.
  • Refrain from wiring money to strangers.
  • Be cautious of online relationships that escalate quickly.
  • Verify domain names for legitimacy.
  • Confirm contact information with known businesses.
  • Resist pressure for sudden payments.
  • Don’t share sensitive information over the phone or email.
  • Don’t let strangers into your home.
  • Be cautious when approached by door-to-door service providers.

What to Do if You’ve Been Scammed

If you’ve fallen victim to a scam, stop communication with the scammer and monitor your accounts for unusual activity. Record details of the situation, including dates, times, and descriptions. Contact your bank, government agencies, loved ones, and local law enforcement if necessary.

Reporting Financial Abuse

For reporting fraud or seeking assistance, reach out to Adult Protective Services (APS) or similar services in your country. Share relevant information to aid the investigation, including suspects, incidents, and descriptions.

Protecting Aging Loved Ones

Watch for signs of financial abuse among aging relatives, whether they live independently, in assisted living, or at home. Even caregivers or trusted individuals can perpetrate fraud. Monitor unusual account activity, unpaid bills, changes in legal documents, or secretive relationships.

Conversing About Fraud

Broaching the subject of fraud with loved ones requires evidence-based dialogue. Present facts, share articles, and discuss cautionary tales to validate concerns. Be patient and persistent, as emotional investments may hinder initial acceptance.

Remember, vigilance, awareness, and open communication are key to protecting yourself and your loved ones from the perils of elder fraud. For more information on how to protect yourself or to report Elder Abuse you call the Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-677-1116.

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About The Author

Jenn Heller is the Operations Manager for The Volen Group, Keller Williams Luxury International, a top real estate team in Ponte Vedra Beach. Jenn has over 18 years experience in Real Estate all in Ponte Vedra Beach, she is an Atlantic Beach resident via Long Island, NY since 1991, a book worm, and loves sports, dogs and the beach.

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