Keep Seniors Safe From Financial Fraud

Your parents have put in a lot of effort their entire lives. They’ve provided for their family, paid off their mortgage, and even saved a nice little nest egg for their retirement years. It’s a fantastic place to be, and they’ve earned it!

Then tomorrow, the phone rings, and the voice on the receiving says they’re from the bank or health insurance company, or something similarly official-sounding, and they just need to confirm a few details. They appear to know what they’re talking about, so your parents trust them with private financial information.

Though senior citizens over 65 are only 13% of the population in the U.S., this group owns more than 50% of the financial assets.  Much of these assets are retirement “nest eggs” that many seniors have been building for several decades.  Having these resources make seniors likely targets of many fraudulent schemes.  Among the many types of fraudulent schemes against seniors are telemarketing fraud, identity theft, and investment fraud.

Scams and fraud cost billions of dollars to older adults each year. Get advice on how to protect yourself and your money. Learn how to recognize common scams, keep your money safe, and report financial fraud if you suspect you’ve been a victim.

Telemarketing fraud

The elderly are a target for scammers in part because they are easier to reach. While you are off to work every day or have other commitments on nights and weekends, older people simply have a little more time on their hands.

Studies show that seniors are more likely to be targeted by telemarketing frauds because telemarketing companies think that seniors are more susceptible to their tricks.  Seniors, who are often too polite to hang up the phone, are lured with offers from phony sweepstakes or charities, investment deals, or other products and services. 

The National Crime Prevention Council recommends that seniors be careful about giving their personal information through the phone or internet to companies that contact them first.  It also warns seniors to look out for offers that seem “too good to be true” and to get things in writing before making any commitment.

Keep in mind that no legitimate government agency, business, or organization will contact you without your permission and then request your personal information. No legitimate prize giveaway, government grant, lottery, or sweepstakes will require you to pay anything up front in order to collect your winnings.

Identity Theft

Seniors also need to be vigilant at guarding against identity theft frauds.  Again, they are targets for these schemes because of their greater amount of resources.  Identity thieves look for information on checks, credit cards, social security cards, Medicare cards, and other mail.  Seniors are advised to keep their personal information in locked places, to use a PO Box instead of a home mailbox for receiving mail if possible, to not carry their Social Security card with them, to not write their full credit card account numbers on checks when paying bills, etc.

Grandchild In Trouble

This scam occurs when a caller informs an elderly adult that their grandchild has been in a car accident or is in jail and requires money right away. Despite the fact that this scam has been around for years, fraudsters are now requesting cash rather than wire transfers or gift cards. Seniors are instructed to divide cash into envelopes and put them in the pages of a magazine that they will mail or ship. The best course of action is to hang up and contact your grandchild or family members to ensure they are safe. If you mailed cash, contact the post office or shipping service to cancel delivery. In addition, you should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

Investment fraud

Lastly, when seniors are promised high rates of return on investments with little or no risk, there are likely to be investment frauds involved.  Companies often solicit funds from seniors promising business deals that are not realistic.  Often these ventures involve purchase, use, or trade of securities that are non-existent, often from an agent who is not licensed to sell these securities.

Seniors can get lured into these deals because they think that it would be wise to invest their retirement savings into ventures which have high growth potential.  They also find it difficult to say “no” to investment advisors who have given them advice or with whom they have developed a false sense of friendship.  Seniors can learn how to protect themselves from such investment frauds by reading Guide for Seniors:  Protect yourself against investment fraud, a publication by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Senior Fraud Resources

Telemarketing fraud, identity theft, investment fraud, and many other types of frauds toward seniors can be further learned about through the websites Washington State Department of Financial Institutions and Retirement Industry Trust Association (RITA) or through the service announcement in the video above.

RITA, a national trade association, tries to promote awareness about fraud issues in the elderly community.  Many government agencies such as the SEC, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and organizations such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) work together to provide systems to report and prevent fraudulent schemes.

Best Way to Prevent Senior Fraud

Setting up identity theft protection for your parents or grandparents is one of the most important steps you can take to protect them from various types of elder fraud.   With identity theft protection in place, they can focus on what they’ve worked their entire lives to enjoy—retirement, vacations, time with grandchildren, and so much more. You can assist them in obtaining and maintaining protection right now.

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