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Fraud Alert: Help Your Aging Loved One Avoid Being Scammed

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, Americans age 65 and older are more likely to be targeted by fraudsters and to lose money once targeted. This is due to the fact that aging individuals are more likely to have money built up, tend to be polite and trusting, are less likely to report a scam, and make poor witnesses. This combination makes them attractive targets for con artists.

It can be a difficult situation for adult children and other loved ones who are acting in a caregiving role, especially if financial decisions are shared. These tips will help insulate and protect aging loved ones from being scammed.

  • Use the National No Call Registry. It is simple to be placed on the No Call Registry, which will prevent many telemarketing calls to both landlines and mobile phones. If you’re able, report those companies that continue to call.
  • Set e-mail spam filters to high. Keep as much junk as possible out of reach.
  • Opt out of junk mail. Go to the Direct Mail Association to do so.
  • Check their Credit Report. With your parents’ permission of course, sign up to receive one free credit report from each of the three reporting agencies. Monitor for signs of identity theft or other fraud.

Gently discuss these “rules of thumb” with your aging loved one. Stress the point that you follow these guidelines as well, since anyone can be a target for fraud.

  • Never give out identity or financial information in any way. If someone contacts you, they should not ask for private information. When in doubt, call back at a number you verify, and then take care of the situation.
  • Never make a decision on the spot. If a salesperson or repairman tells you that you must decide now, the decision is no. Never hire someone who tells you about an unnoticed but needed repair at home, and never pay the full amount up front.
  • Avoid high risk, high profit investments. Legitimate companies will be up front about the risks and the costs. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
  • Do not send money to family members or friends in trouble. This common scam says that a grandchild is in trouble and urgently needs money. Let them know that if this is the case, you will know and will be involved in the process.
  • Don’t be ashamed if you become a victim. Scammers rely on the shame of the victim; it keeps them hooked and lures them further into the scam. It also prevents the perpetrator from getting caught. If it happens, report it so that others can be protected.

It’s pertinent to start and continue conversations about finances and fraud. Consider sharing a news story about someone who was scammed, and use it as a launching pad for conversation about what to do to protect assets. Visit or call often, and listen for warning signs that things may have gone awry. Encourage open conversation and wise choices, without lecturing or being too heavy handed. Remember, your loved one wants to make good decisions just as much as you want them to do so.

Additional sources: FBI, AARP