According to a 2009 study by MetLife, the elderly are scammed out of about $2.6 billion dollars a year. Why are seniors targeted by solicitors and scammers? Seniors may be vulnerable because they’re concerned about outliving their money and having nothing to fall back on. Because of this, they may be more ready to buy into false propositions that promise financial security. Unfortunately, scammers are aware of this vulnerability and do their best to take advantage of it.
Scammers also know that seniors are less likely to report fraud because they may not even realized they’ve been played, or if they do, they don’t know where to report the fraud. The elderly may also hesitate to report that they’ve been the victim of a scam because they’re concerned that relatives may think they no longer have the mental capacity to handle their own finances.
So what can you do to help ensure that your senior population won’t fall victim to these types of scams?
First and foremost, you can educate them on how to recognize scams, which can come in a variety of forms—over the phone, the internet, or through the mail. According to the FBI, the most common include heath care or health insurance fraud, counterfeit prescription drugs, funeral and cemetery fraud, fraudulent “anti-aging” products, telemarketing fraud, internet fraud, investment schemes, and reverse mortgage scams.
Although there are many different types of scams, there are some basic principles that you can educate your seniors on to help them from becoming a victim. Here are some safety tips:
- Don’t share any vital information, such as your social security number, birthday, or banking information over the phone.
- Ask for everything in writing.
- Phrases such as “you must act now”, or “you’ve won a free gift, but you have to pay for postage and handling” are warning signs that a too-good-to-be-true offer is a scam.
- A legitimate company will never force you to make an immediate decision regarding their product.
- Shred important documents.
- Avoid direct mail and email offers. Don’t respond to unsolicited advertisements.
- Any time you are unsure whether a company or product is legitimate, it’s always wise to consult a relative or caregiver.
Organizing an event to educate your senior population on how to recognize fraud, how to avoid falling for a scam, and what to do if they think they might have been a victim of fraud can be a tremendous benefit to them. For more resources on how to recognize these types of crimes, or what to do you if you suspect that one of your residents has been the victim of a scam, see the FBI’s website http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors on common fraud schemes targeted at seniors.
What steps are you taking to protect your senior population from being a victim of fraud?