According to the U.S. Treasury Department scams of every kind are on the rise, but particularly those aimed at seniors. There is a loud voice in the media calling to protect our seniors from fraud, as well as Federal and state regulations that enforce implementation of safe practices to financial institutions; however, we still need to raise awareness and take proactive measures that help avoid senior scams. (Especially for those seniors with diminished capacities.) As a financial advisory firm, we take this issue very seriously, on many levels.
How to help seniors avoid scams- review the following, to help identify potential scams.
Make sure you designate a trusted contact on your Investment Account
Your “trusted contact” will be called by you advisor should they observe any warning signs of diminished capacity. Your advisor should also be able to educate you, and your “trusted contact” on behaviors that may indicate a decline in basic skill sets.
Never give your personal information over the phone
Never give your Social Security number, banking information, Medicare, or other personal information over the phone, unless you made the call. Be wary of someone trying to sell you something that they claim will be covered by Medicare. Call Medicare directly and protect your Medicare number as you would your Social Security number. Review all banking, investment, Medicare and credit card statements carefully.
Take yourself off all calling and mailing list
Go to the National Do Not Call Registry and register your phone to help stop telemarketers from contacting you. Be vigilant about collecting your mail, don’t leave it sitting in your mailbox for too long.
Check your credit rating regularly
Go to AnnualCreditReport.com and check for any unusual or incorrect information.
Be alert to the risk of strangers and of those close to you
Many times, elder abuse is committed by the person’s own family members. Do not agree to joint checking accounts or the promise of services that are not delivered. Keep in mind you do not need millions in the bank to be abused or scammed.
Stay involved in the community
Isolation becomes a substantial risk factor for elder abuse. Visit the Eldercare Locator to find services nearby that can help you stay active. Or contact your local senior center to get involved.
Don’t buy from telephone solicitors
Ask telemarketers to send you written information, or just tell them you never buy from phone solicitors. Never give them your credit card! If you do receive written information, always check their authenticity.
Use direct deposit for your benefit checks
By using direct deposit, you will avoid the chance of income checks being stolen from your mailbox. When you use direct deposit, it goes directly into your account and is protected.
Use the internet with caution
Knowing how to use the internet is helpful at every age, but if you are not hyper-vigilant about cyber-security and the latest technology, you may fall prey to scammers. Beware of pop-up’s, or suspicious email. Clicking on the links may download a virus. A virus has the potential to take personal information from your computer. Make sure you use firewalls and anti-virus protection.
If you think you are a victim of a scam, don’t be embarrassed to talk about it- you must act without delay.
Contact your bank, credit card company and cancel any debit or credit cards linked to the stolen account immediately. Reset all your passwords and go to Adult Protective Services (APS), every state has one and reports the incident. APS is responsible for receiving and investigating reports of elder abuse and exploitation.