It’s sad to say, but we live in a world of scams, and when it comes to things like fraud, our senior citizens are often the most vulnerable. According to the FBI, there are a number of reasons for this.
- Senior citizens are more likely to have a “nest egg” and excellent credit to make them attractive targets.
- Seniors were generally raised to be trusting and polite, and these traits may keep them from bluntly saying “no” or hanging up the phone.
- Older Americans are less likely to report fraud because they don’t know where to report it, or are too ashamed, or simply don’t know they’ve been scammed. They may fear that family or relatives will no longer believe they are competent to handle their own financial affairs and may lose their independence.
- When they do report fraud, seniors often make poor witnesses, with failing memories and lack of adequate detail for investigators to go on. Also they may be reporting fraud that happened weeks or months ago.
- Seniors are more susceptible to products promising better cognitive functioning, virility, physical conditioning, and anti-cancer properties. In a lifetime that has seen major medical advancements against disease and other breakthroughs, such pitches may not seem farfetched.
Fraudsters know all this, and use it to their advantage. The FBI has some helpful, comprehensive, and easy-to-digest lists about different kinds of frauds and how to prevent them. One of the most common kinds of fraud against older Americans is credit card fraud. If you’re concerned about an older relative or loved one, here’s how some them work and can be prevented.
Email pitches: Such scams offer an attractive product, but they need your credit card information. This also happens over the phone — somebody’s got a great product, maybe offering youthful energy, they just need a credit card number to seal the deal. The simple rule here: never use a credit card to buy a product sold in this manner.
Caregivers: Perhaps your Dad uses home health care a few days a week, or he’s in a nursing facility where there are nurses and medical assistants all around. One would think they are all trustworthy, but unfortunately there are many reports of caregivers using the credit cards of the people they are supposed to be caring for.
In such a situation, try to eliminate paper trails where people in the room can easily find credit card information. Visit frequently and shred any mail containing personal information. Ask for paperless statements that can only be viewed online. Even if you can’t visit frequently, with your loved one’s permission your can monitor his or her accounts online several times a week.
Keep an eye on family members: This isn’t easy to say, but often it’s family members who rob their own parents or grandparents. Particularly if a family member has issues with things like drug use or gambling debt, that should raise a warning flag. When people desperately needs money, they can justify taking it from anyone, and may even think the parents or grandparents won’t notice. Staying on top of account activity can prove them wrong.
Watch the mail: You can learn a lot! Bogus “charities” may be asking for donations via credit card. If your loved one is getting letters from organizations, he or she may have sent them money previously. Here again, regularly checking online accounts can reveal if there are payments to fraudulent entities.
Pay attention to new friends: The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse recommends you do so. A new friend may be a blessing, but if it’s very sudden, and there’s an age difference, it could also be someone planning fraud.
About the Author: Mark Fryman is part of a group of investment fraud attorneys at the securities law firm of StarrAusten.com. When he’s not researching investment fraud issues, he enjoys running, playing cards and watching the Indianapolis Colts win on Sundays.