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How do I protect my loved one against financial scams?

By Peter DiMaria

Home Helpers Home Care Enfield Press Article

A few weeks ago, one of our caregivers was cleaning the client’s home when she noticed he was agitated, in front of the computer. He was nervous because, he said, his bank account had been hacked, and he was being stolen. He told her the bank had sent him an email and, now, he was being asked to take some “measures” to protect himself. 

It turns out his bank account was safe, and the email he mentioned was, in reality, a scam. Noticing that something wasn’t right, the caregiver alerted him about this sort of fraud and stopped him from handing out his passwords and his identity information to the scammers.

This story shows why elder financial abuse is something every family should be aware of and everyone should discuss with their loved ones.

According to the Investor Protection Trust, one of five people age 65 or older has been financially scammed or swindled.  With the unprecedented growth of the older population, the problem of financial exploitation is only expected to increase.

Many times this type of crime goes unpunished. That happens because perpetrators are located in another country and use telephones and the internet to convince people to give their personal information and send them money. The victims sometimes fail to recognize the theft because they feel ashamed of being fooled. For this reason, they tend not to report it.

Senior Care Enfield CT: Here are a few tips to help seniors protect themselves against financial abuse.

Acknowledge risk: Women aged 75 and older and people with cognitive impairments are twice as likely to fall victim to scams. However, elder financial abuse is an “Equal Opportunity Crime,” and everyone is at risk.

Monitor and protect: If something seems incorrect on a bank or credit card statement, dispute the charge. Keep your credit cards, checks, valuables and personal information protected in a safe place.

Don't trust emails or phone calls from the bank or the IRS. Be suspicious, in particular, if they ask for personal information like your social security or credit card numbers. Never hand these out to strangers. If you seem to believe what the person on the phone is saying, hang up and call the bank. That way, you will be assured you are actually talking to your bank manager and not to an impersonator.

Act rationally, not emotionally: If someone spins a tale of hardship  (e.g., lost job, a house in foreclosure, past due notices) and requests money from you, we recommend verifying the story first. Then, wait a couple of days to decide if you are in a position to help.

If you want to help someone with their bills, don't hand out cash. If someone you know says he/she needs money to pay the mortgage or gas/electric, ask to see the past due notice and make a check to the creditor.

Write a contract: If you choose to help someone financially, draft a simple agreement that spells out your expectations for repayment: period, interest, etc. 

Have the confidence to say NO! If someone asks you for your hard-earned money, know that you have the right to say no. Their financial hardship is not your problem, and there are other options they can consider such as taking out a loan or making lifestyle changes to reduce expenses.

Get a Second Opinion: Talk to someone you trust and explain what is going on. An impartial third party could offer an objective point of view. Do not be ashamed or embarrassed if you have been swindled or scammed. Always report it, because in doing so, you will be helping others who could be going through the same situation.

If you suspect someone is being financially abused, contact the Adult Protective Services in your state or county, or consult the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse.

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