Protecting elders against fraud and scams

With an estimated 70 million Baby Boomers expected to retire in the coming years, the amount of financial abuse committed against elders is likely to increase many times over as well. Aided by digital technology and an ever growing population of vulnerable people to take advantage of, con artists and even unscrupulous family members steal billions of dollars from victims who are often too embarrassed to reveal the deceit.


Although con artists target victims across all age groups with success, elders are particularly vulnerable to deceit for a number of reasons that aging people and their families need to be aware of and take steps to prevent. Even scams that appear to be obvious cons to most can be mistaken as honest propositions by elderly people placing their trust in someone who appears in need of help or offering assistance.


Often times, scammers attempt to take advantage of those who may be lonely, have some type of diminished capacity, or otherwise caught of guard. Whether by phone, email, or in person, con artists will target any victim they can but aging populations appear to present some of the best opportunities to enrich themselves.


Like anyone else, elders may receive phishing scam emails in an attempt to retrieve the individual’s personal information like usernames/passwords, credit card info, or social security numbers by posing as a bank or government entity. The danger from these types of scams may come from an older person’s inexperience with email, online banking, or other digital transactions which has only become commonplace in the past decade.


Other cons involve someone contacting an elder person while posing as a distressed relative who needs money to get out of a difficult situation. Some scams may be as malicious as using social networks or online dating websites to gain the affection of someone who may have little interaction with family or friends and seeks companionship.


Of course, there is the all too common form of elder abuse where a family member or someone close to the older person and enriches himself or herself by gaining access to banking accounts and obtaining powers of attorney to act on that person’s behalf. As unlikely as any of these scams are likely to happen to you or someone you know, simple countermeasures can go along way to helping prevent financial exploitation.


For starters, having multiple people involved in a power of attorney helps ensure no single person can influence financial decisions. It is also very important to not let our elder loved ones become isolated from family and friends as to become vulnerable to this type of exploitation. Finally, warn family members to be suspicious of phishing scams and robo calls asking for immediate access to credit cards, money, or any personal information that may lead to a serious case of identity theft.

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