Although millions of consumers are victims of financial fraud each year, none fall prey easier than the elderly.
Cases of financial fraud against seniors are often underreported, meaning that the statistics of financial losses in this age group are unreliable at best.
Underreporting of financial fraud in this age category is due to the fact that seniors believe they are the ones to blame. They may apply for deceitful loans and experience shame or fear of being reprimanded or separated from their home and family. They also may lack knowledge of their options and rights under the law.
The elders who are the most vulnerable include those living alone or those who refuse help or second opinions. Someone overly dependent on a caregiver can be susceptible to fraud; even someone who is naturally charitable.
The devastation of financial fraud on senior citizens is compounded by the fact that the elderly have no time to make up for their losses or reassess their situations to grow any remaining assets.
Oftentimes, the financial loss they experience amount to life savings that can never be rebuilt.
The most common forms of financial abuse include forging checks, stealing credit or debit cards and transferring assets into other accounts. Many times these crimes are carried out by trusted family members.
Aside from dishonest family members and friends, elderly consumers can become victims in seemingly legitimate ways.
Television commercials and other forms of advertising have made upfront fee loans appealing to seniors. These are “quick cash” loans that allow you to pay an advance fee and qualify for a loan, regardless of credit history.
Some of these companies contact seniors by phone to offer the advance-fee loans, although this practice is illegal in the United States. To put it simply, all of these upfront fee loans are scams.
A reputable financial institution will always insist on the creditworthiness of the borrower before issuing a loan. Never be tempted to fall for scams and ensure your elderly family members know how to apply for valid loans if necessary.
Remind your elderly parents or grandparents to refuse all offers over the phone and make sure they know never to give out credit card or social security information.
Many of these phone calls may in fact be genuine. Some may even play on emotions, such as a plea for monetary donations, but there is a scam for every legitimate offer, so be on guard with each phone call.
Besides protecting your credit card and social security numbers, never give out Medicare numbers. Throw away any junk mail that announces you have won a prize, since almost all of these are scams.
Assess your elderly relative’s current financial conditions and report any suspected fraudulent activity. Having knowledge of the types of frauds can empower an elder, so take the time to educate and train him or her regarding what to do in certain circumstances.
Keep tabs on senior parents or grandparents to spot fraudulent activity as soon as possible or, if you are a senior citizen, communicate openly with trusted family members. Prevent fraud before it happens.