Protect elders’ money during the holidays
Scammers work overtime this time of year, and seniors often most vulnerable.
This is the time of year when families get together to enjoy one another’s company. Who wants to spoil it by warning your elderly loved ones about scams?
Isn’t this bad timing? Nope. It’s perfect timing.
Thieves work overtime this time of the year, and a prime target is the elderly.
“There are a lot of different things at play this time of year that make it critical to have this conversation,” said Sandy Markwood, chief executive of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.
“One thing is that we saw an increase in financial exploitation of older adults just because of the economic downturn, and people were looking at preying on anybody to get additional resources,” she said.
“But the other issue is at this time of year, there is an awful lot of spending activity and oftentimes, it’s easy to pick up somebody’s personal information, their credit card information and maybe not to pay attention as closely if somebody has one of your checks and/or forged your signature.”
Markwood’s organization is part of the 10th annual Home for the Holidays campaign of the Eldercare Locator, a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging that encourages older adults, caregivers and their families to use their holiday time together to talk about strategies to prevent financial exploitation of the elderly.
“Financial exploitation of older adults can take many forms and can come in many guises, including telemarketing scams, identity theft, fake check scams, home repair fraud, and even ‘sweetheart scams,’ whereby a con artist befriends or romances a lonely
older adult to gain control over their finances,” Markwood said.
Unfortunately, financial exploitation can also be committed by a family member or friend.
“Elder financial exploitation has far-reaching effects on its victims in particular and society in general,” said the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which in November released a study on the issue in a report titled “Elder Justice: National Strategy Needed to Effectively Combat Elder Financial Exploitation.”
Family members should be aware of warning signs. “You walk into mom or dad’s house, they’re people who’ve always paid their bills on time, and all of a sudden, there’s a pile of bills … and that’s so completely counter to the way that your parents have han- dled money before,” Markwood said. “If all of a sudden you hear about new ‘friends’ who are offering to drive mom or dad to the bank or to do things that they’re getting some form of payment for, those are red flags.”
Also, if you see a lot of telemarketing information coming to your elderly loved ones’ home or they’re talking about some “great investment deal or if you have any indications that there have been changes to any kind of financial documents that were never discussed with anybody else, those are all red flags,” Markwood said.