4 Ways Caregivers Can Help Elders Avoid Scams
Most people, seniors included, consider themselves savvy enough to avoid being tricked by scam artists. But millions of people around the world are defrauded each year, and the financial impact runs well into the hundreds of millions of dollars annually. The impact is not just the loss of money – seniors who are scammed once can be led to greater and greater risks, and the loss of funds can often jeopardize access to public health benefits such as Medicaid in the future.
Seniors are particularly targeted for several reasons including good credit scores, access to Medicare coverage, and a willingness to talk on the phone. Caregivers can use the following tips to help those in their care avoid being taken by scams.
Un-list numbers and addresses
If they still have a landline, have it unlisted. This can help reduce unwanted access to their contact information. To also reduce telemarketing calls, you may put their landline and cell phone numbers on the Do Not Call list. This may not affect those committing fraud directly, but it helps to limit solicitation. If it seems unusual for someone to call and ask for money, then a call out of the blue may stand out as a possible scam. It is relatively simple to remove an address and phone numbers from all telemarketing lists, vastly reducing solicitations through the phone and the mail.
Many seniors use computers, tablets and smartphones to connect to the world. It may be common for friends and family to email them adorable photos or links to articles. So they may not think twice about downloading something that seems like it is from a trusted source. Make sure their devices are protected by keeping up-to-date antivirus software and running regular scans. Especially if those devices are used for financial transactions, it is important to make sure the seniors and their caregivers are the only ones with access to them. If they know they have antivirus software already, they might not take the bait from a popup message that purports to help remove viruses. Make sure they know to alert you if they believe something they have received or clicked on doesn’t seem right.
Explain as much as you can
Talk to them about what types of scams are out there and why they shouldn’t give out personal or payment information, especially over the phone or internet. Explain why wiring money is not a good idea. Telling an elder to not give to charities or putting other restrictions on how they handle their own money may not go over well unless they understand why. Explain that family members will not call and insist on payments to avoid kidnapping, or while mysteriously traveling in foreign locales (don't laugh; it's more common than you think). Tell them nobody will tell them on the phone that they've won the lottery. Talk about the steps you are taking to avoid scams yourself and to help them too.
If they do fall victim to a scam, it is best to find out quickly before more damage to their finances can be done. Check all bank and credit card statements each month. And you may want to set up online access to their accounts for a more frequent review. But remember to be as vigilant with the security of their information as you are with your own. Another item that you should review for fraudulent activity is their credit report. This can be done for free once a year from each of the three big credit bureaus – space the requests out so you can review the reports every four months. Also, since elders may be targeted with medical scams, caregivers should examine the explanation of benefits statements from the insurance company to check for medical services or equipment that were not delivered or necessary.
As always, please feel free to contact our office for more information on any of these tips. We are happy to provide additional information as a public service.
Archer Brogan Can Help
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