Seniors: Know When You Are Being ScammedPosted on October 17, 2014 by ElderCare Resources in Blog, Caregiver Education, Consumer Alert, Education, Elder Abuse
AGING WITH CARE | Scammers target trusting seniors
By Marla Beck
In caring for the aging, I confront a multitude of issues. One of the most troublesome is the financial and emotional exploitation of seniors. It baffles me how a person can stoop so low that he/she would exploit our most vulnerable and most honored citizens.
Senior citizens have worked their entire lives to improve the standard of living of our country and to make our world a better place. Hoping to remain financially independent and self-supporting throughout their declining years, seniors worked hard to accumulate the necessary assets. It is unconscionable for anyone to steal those resources; but it happens.
As seniors, we need to self-educate; if caring for an aging person, we need to be watchful and understand how easily seniors can be exploited.
As a lot, seniors are more trusting and caring than their youthful counterparts. Seniors are often lonely, and they commonly feel financially insecure. So seniors are vulnerable to emotional manipulation that leads to financial exploitation.
The exploitation game has many players. Individuals and businesses prey on seniors. It ranges from businesses selling services seniors don’t need, to charities that cross ethical boundaries while soliciting funds. Solicitations come in the mail, are received by phone or are delivered in-person by the salesperson at the front door. The Internet has compounded the opportunities to exploit seniors.
AARP reports “one-third of all scam victims are 65 or older, though this age group comprises only one-eighth of the population.” Out of embarrassment, many wrongdoings go unreported.
Nothing’s private, sacred
Most data and information is for sale these days and can become the foundation for many common scams.
An example: Con artists buy lists of contact information for those who have entered sweepstakes. Seniors are targeted: They receive phone calls telling them they have won sweepstakes’ prizes. To receive the prize money, they must pay taxes and processing fees. Those who send money to the perpetrators never see it again.
Seniors who lose spouses are vulnerable to manipulation when visiting dating websites: They easily become victims of “romance.” After scammers cultivate online relationships, they ask for money for an “emergency” or for airline tickets so they can come to visit.
“Charities” often target the generosity of seniors and often tie their “charitable” requests to disaster or relief efforts. My advice to seniors: Be proactive with your giving and support the organizations you know and respect. That way, when you receive unsolicited requests for donations, you say, “No.”
My rule: Do not give money via the phone, email or to in-person solicitors; never give out your credit-card information.
Door-to-door solicitations for home repairs often end with costly work that is poorly performed. Use reputable companies that are bonded and insured.
Other areas ripe for scam artists include fraudulent and/or misrepresented senior care insurance and inappropriate or fraudulent monetary investments.
Here’s another rule to follow: Always use trusted advisors — ones who come highly recommended by someone you know and in whom you have confidence.
Playing on emotions
They push for immediate action, not allowing time to process information. They challenge an aging person’s abilities to remember and keep things straight. Therefore, they may falsely claim they have not been paid or raise an agreed-upon price.
Unfortunately, the most common form of senior financial fraud is perpetrated by family members. Not every family member has the senior’s best interest at heart. The rationalization: “I am caring for them, so it’s only right I compensate myself.”
While one is still able to conduct business with a clear mind, set up a structure that minimizes the chances of fraud. Designate the most-trusted person from within your family or a trusted friend with financial oversight. Formalize the relationship by assigning financial power of attorney. A lawyer will create the necessary document.
As we age and our clarity of thought begins to diminish, rely on your designated trusted-advisor. When home repairs are needed, health-care coverage must be purchased or investments need review, consult your financial designee, your attorney and a professional financial advisor before making a decision.
Do NOT rely on someone you just met who is pushing you to make a quick decision that could negatively affect your financial wellbeing.
MARLA BECK is the founder and president of Andelcare Inc., which provides in-home eldercare.