Tips for Preventing Elder Fraud and How Home Care Can Help

Elder fraud and scams—either stealing money or a person’s identity—are serious crimes that affect seniors each day. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports that over 92,000 older adults are victims of elder fraud each year with over $1.7 billion in losses. With so many scams targeting older adults, how can you help an older loved one reduce their risk? Senior HomeCare of Tucson recommends tips for preventing elder fraud and shares how a professional in-home caregiver can help.

Why Are Seniors Targeted for Scams?

Older adults are more likely to be victims of fraud because scammers believe that seniors have money saved, they may be more trusting and eager to help, and they may be less likely to understand technology. This combination of traits, whether true or not, leaves older adults more vulnerable to scams. It’s important for family members and caregivers to keep a careful eye out for red flags to help older loved ones stay safe.

Ways to Protect Older Adults From Fraud

Elder fraud is a common occurrence, so it’s important to educate yourself and the senior you love about the possible risks, including how scammers tend to target people.  For strategies for reducing risk, check out these tips for preventing elder fraud:

Learn how scams work. A first step in recognizing potential concerns is to understand the different scams and how people gain access to seniors. Scams can be committed by phone, email, or through websites that seem legitimate. Often they involve the scammer impersonating someone else in order to con the older adult out of money or personal information that can be used to steal their identity. In some cases, they may even take over the person’s computer to gain access to their information that way.

Fraudulent callers seeking to con seniors out of money often ask for gift cards or a money transfer so there’s no identification required for them to collect the stolen money. Unfortunately, this also makes it hard for people to recover their money. Callers frequently use pressure tactics and play on the senior’s fears of having an important service cut off, a grandchild going to jail, etc. to get the victim to pay quickly. The National Council on Aging has identified the following most common scams against seniors:

  • Scams impersonating government officials – Callers pretend they’re from a governmental agency, such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or Social Security Administration (SSA). The caller may lie saying the older adult has unpaid taxes or will lose their benefits if they do not provide payment or personal information over the phone. The calls can be frightening and convincing, so the senior may be more willing to give the information or payment in order to avoid further complications. To make things more convincing, the scammer may use technology to make it look like the phone number is from an official government office.
  • Scams about lotteries – Callers tell the senior that they’ve won a prize, and to collect it, they have to send money to cover fees or taxes. A legitimate prize should not cost anything to collect.
  • Phone scams – Scammers may start calls by asking questions to get the older adult to answer yes or to respond in a certain way so they can record the answer. A common example is a caller starts the call with, “Can you hear me,” or “Is this (person’s name),” to get the person answering to say yes. The caller records the conversation and may use it as a voice signature to approve stolen credit card charges, for example. Other common phone scams include saying the person has an expiring warranty or outstanding fees that they have to pay for immediately. Another threat is that person answering will be sued or arrested for some bogus fee if they don’t pay quickly.
  • Technical support scams – When using the internet, some websites may generate a pop-up window telling the viewer to call a fake support number for assistance or to fix a computer problem. The message can be convincing and may lead older adults to call the scammer who then asks for payment to fix the computer, when nothing is wrong with it, or to gain remote access to the computer to steal the senior’s passwords and financial information.
  • Grandparent scam – Another common scam is to call and pretend to be the older adult’s grandchild to ask for financial support to pay rent, bail, or to get them out of some kind of trouble.

Check in with your loved one regularly – Regularly checking on the older adult you love is an important way to observe normal patterns and to recognize potential red flags so you can address them quickly. When you’re together, go over the senior’s purchases, bills, emails, internet browsing, and postal mail. Make sure to stress the importance of talking with you or another trusted individual before giving any financial information or passwords to strangers, even if they seem like they mean well.

Sign up for do not call registries – To reduce the risk of unwanted calls, you can register the senior’s phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry. Opting out of mailing lists can also help reduce the amount of junk mail sent to an older adult. Receiving fewer calls or less junk mail helps reduce the risk that the older adult will be duped into giving money or personal information to scammers.

Consider hiring a professional caregiver – An in-home caregiver, like one from Senior HomeCare of Tucson, can also help protect older adults from elder fraud and scams. By being with the older adult regularly, we can help by:

  • Warding off solicitors who come to the door
  • Answering the phone or helping the senior determine if a caller is legitimate
  • Watching for potential red flags when the senior is online
  • Sorting through mail with the senior to help them be aware of scams or requests that might be paid unintentionally
  • Noticing signs that the senior may be the victim of fraud and alerting family members of any potential concern

For additional information about keeping older loved ones safe while living independently, contact the experts at Senior HomeCare of Tucson. Our caregiving team is available to provide a wide range of in-home care services to help the person you love enjoy a meaningful and safe life in the comfort of home. Contact us today to learn more about how our senior home care options can help someone you love.

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