How to rec­og­nize and pre­vent el­der fi­nan­cial abuse

Yuma Sun - - DESERT LIFE - Jim Miller

DEAR SAVVY SE­NIOR — Can you pro­vide some tips on how to pro­tect se­niors from fi­nan­cial scams? My 76-year-old aunt was re­cently swin­dled out of $25,000 and I want to make sure my own mother is pro­tected. — Con­cerned daugh­ter

DEAR CON­CERNED — Fi­nan­cial scams that tar­get the el­derly con­tinue to be a huge prob­lem in the U.S. In fact, it’s es­ti­mated that one in five Amer­i­cans over age 65 are scammed out of roughly $36 bil­lion every year. Here are some tips that can help you spot a scam, and what you can do to pro­tect your mom.

Rec­og­niz­ing a scam

Spot­ting a scam or a con artist is not al­ways easy to do. They range from shady fi­nan­cial ad­vis­ers to slick­talk­ing tele­mar­keters to pro­fes­sional care­givers and rel­a­tives who steal from the very peo­ple they’re sup­posed to be look­ing af­ter.

The most com­mon scams tar­get­ing se­niors to­day come in the form of tricky and de­ceit­ful tele­mar­ket­ing calls, email and In­ter­net scams, free-lunch sem­i­nars sell­ing du­bi­ous fi­nan­cial prod­ucts and end­less junk mail ped­dling free va­ca­tion pack­ages, sweep­stakes, phony char­ity fundrais­ers and more. And of course, there’s the on­go­ing prob­lem of iden­tity theft, Medi­care and So­cial Se­cu­rity fraud, door-to-door scams and credit card theft.

The best way to spot a scam is to help your mom man­age her fi­nances, or at least mon­i­tor her ac­counts. Re­view­ing her fi­nan­cial state­ments each month can alert you to ques­tion­able checks, credit card charges or large with­drawals. Or con­sider a ser­vice like EverSafe.com, which will au­to­mat­i­cally mon­i­tor your mom’s ac­counts, track sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity and alert you when it de­tects a prob­lem.

If, how­ever, your mom doesn’t want you look­ing at her fi­nan­cial records, there are other clues. For ex­am­ple: Is she get­ting a lot of junk mail for con­tests, free trips, and sweep­stakes? Is she re­ceiv­ing calls from strangers of­fer­ing awards or mon­ey­mak­ing deals? Also, no­tice if her spend­ing habits have changed, if she has com­plained about be­ing short of money lately or has sud­denly be­come se­cre­tive or de­fen­sive about her fi­nances. All th­ese may be signs of trou­ble.

Pro­tect your mom

The most ef­fec­tive way to help pro­tect your mom is to alert her to the dif­fer­ent kind of scams go­ing on to­day. To help you with this, the Na­tional Coun­cil on Ag­ing has a list of “top 10 fi­nan­cial scams tar­get­ing se­niors” at NCOA.org. Also see AARP’s Fraud Watch Net­work at AARP. org/money/scams-fraud and sign up to re­ceive free scam alert emails from the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion at FTC.gov/scams.

Some other tips to pro­tect her in­clude re­mind­ing your mom to never give out her per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber or fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion un­less she ini­ti­ated the con­tact and knows the in­sti­tu­tion.

Also, see if your mom would be will­ing to let you sort her mail be­fore she opens it, so you can weed out the junk. To re­duce the junk mail and/or email she gets, use the Di­rect Mar­ket­ing As­so­ci­a­tion con­sumer opt-out ser­vice at DMA­choice.org. And to stop credit card and in­sur­ance of­fers, use the Con­sumer Credit Re­port­ing In­dus­try opt-out ser­vice at Op­tOutPre­screen.com or call 888567-8688 — they will ask for your mom’s So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber and date of birth.

You should also reg­is­ter your mom’s home and cell phone num­bers on the Na­tional Do Not Call Registry (DoNotCall.gov, 888-3821222) to re­duce tele­mar­keters. To stop robo­call scams on her land­line phone use No­morobo (No­morobo. com), and if she uses a smart­phone, use the free app Hiya (Hiya.com). You should also get a free copy of her credit re­port at An­nu­alCred­itRe­port.com to make sure she isn’t a vic­tim of iden­tity theft.

Re­port it

If you sus­pect your mom has got­ten scammed, re­port it to her lo­cal po­lice, her bank (if money has been taken from her ac­count) and her state’s Adult Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices agency that in­ves­ti­gates re­ports of el­derly fi­nan­cial abuse. Call the Elder­care Lo­ca­tor at 800-677-1116 to get the agency con­tact num­ber in her area.

Send your se­nior ques­tions to: Savvy Se­nior, P.O. Box 5443, Nor­man, OK 73070, or visit SavvySe­nior.org.

Savvy Se­nior

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