September 12th, 2011 at 10:03 am
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Elder fraud: how to protect your loved ones

by Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP

Just when you think you have heard it all, yet another story comes along that tells of another elder becoming the victim of a financial scam. Elder fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country. As baby boomers approach their retirement years, elder fraud could become even more problematic. In light of increasing cases of elder fraud, identity theft and online scams, what can you do to protect your loved ones?

Elder fraud: older adults are more vulnerable

There are various reasons why older adults are more susceptible for falling for scams, particularly fraudulent calls from telemarketers. The National Fraud Information Center reports that nearly 30% of telemarketing victims are over the age of 60. Using their phones as their weapons, these telemarketers target seniors because they are typically home to answer the calls, traditionally have money in savings and–most importantly–are usually too kind and polite to hang up the phone.

According to the National Fraud Information Center, here two of the primary reasons seniors are targeted:

  1. Seniors like to trust people. In most cases, seniors tend to be more trusting. Remember, they grew up in a different era. Many have a difficult time believing the person on the other end of the phone is a criminal.
  2. Seniors can’t hang up the phone. Crooks know that many seniors believe it is impolite to hang up the telephone on someone.

Consider this, some senior receive more than 20 phone calls per day from fraudulent telemarketers and scam artists. At some point, your loved one may be too worn down to say no to the charming person on the phone.

Elder fraud: is your loved one a victim?

The National Fraud Information Center notes seniors may be in trouble or potentially a victim if the following occurs:

  1. They begin to subscribe to more magazines than they can read
  2. They begin receiving large amounts of mail that touts prizes or sweepstakes
  3. They begin to receive cheap items in the mail, such as beauty products or costume jewelry
  4. They begin to receive numerous phone calls from organizations that offer to help them recover money they lost to telemarketers
  5. They begin to make large payments to companies in other states or countries

Elder fraud: protecting your loved ones

The first step in preventing elder fraud is to educate your loved ones about illegal telemarketing and help them understand that they are a primary target for criminals. The second step is to be observant and make sure your loved one isn’t victimized.

For example, when a family learned their aunt had shared her credit card number to someone trying to verify a purchase, they realized they needed to devise a solution to protect her. She was both hearing impaired and forgetful, but took great pride in her ability to be independent. She agreed that she would let the answering machine get all calls and only pick up the phone when she knew it was a friend or family member.

In short, devise a plan that works for you and your elderly loved one.

  1. Screen all calls. Use caller ID or an answering machine to screen all calls
  2. Understand your “Do-Not-Call” rights. Remember, under federal law, if you ask a telemarketer not to call you, then they must respect your wishes.
  3. Know the caller. If you’ve never heard of the company or charitable organization, contact the Better Business Bureau.
  4. Put together a list of blocked telemarketers. Download a Do Not Call Registration Information chart.

Elder fraud: what to do when it happens

If you suspect your loved one has been a victim of elder fraud, take the following steps:

  1. Report the fraud to the National Fraud Information Center, (800)-876-7060. They will transfer your information to the proper law enforcement agencies.
  2. Change your loved one’s phone number.
  3. Change their bank account or credit card numbers.
Posted in Caregiving, Fraud | 1 Comment »
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One Response to “Elder fraud: how to protect your loved ones”

  1. Maggy Young

    “..some senior receive more than 20 phone calls per day from fraudulent telemarketers”. This appears excessive by any standards. I’ve rec’d two telemarketing calls over the past three years or so, one from a charity & one from a cell phone company. It seems that some people receive far more calls (attention) than others!
    I think we need to address the issue at the beginning & ask why? How are they obtaining the data & why are some people so targeted?
    I suggest many elderly are leaving their tel. nos. in the public phone directories & are not registering with DNC, hence their nos. are available while others aren’t.
    Secondly, when people are being very heavily targeted, it may be because they have had a greater tendency to respond to things in the recent past, eg. junk mail etc.
    In doing this, they have probably given out their tel. nos, which will then be circulated amongs similar, with them being marked out as likely responders. Hence the deluge.
    A similar situation to giving email addresses in return for downloads & then having your inbox filled up with spam.
    Responding to things may be more of an elderly syndrome:- they are at home, maybe bored & have time on their hands, so they may have a greater tendency to go for eg. free prize draws, competitions, free lottery stakes etc.
    So Step 1 should be changing the landline no. & coming out of the public directory – this way the new no. is no longer available. Then going on the DNC Register. Then avoid giving out tel nos in response to junk mail, web offers etc. Illegal telmarketers etc. can’t call if they don’t have your number.

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