How Financial Predators Target the Elderly
Scam artists have no boundaries. They target vulnerable people of all ages. If there’s money to be stolen, crooks will devise a scheme to steal it. Swindlers use emotional manipulation to rob seniors of their savings, medical benefits, and dignity. Here’s what you should know about elder financial fraud so you can protect someone you love.
What Is Elder Financial Fraud?
Elder financial fraud is a type of scam that targets older adults. It works by befriending the target to access financial information, medical benefits, and physical assets. Sadly, 90% of these scammers aren’t nameless, faceless online hackers but family members or other trusted individuals.
Elder Financial Fraud Warning Signs
Caregivers, pastors, health care employees, attorneys, and others have been known to take advantage of aging individuals. But recognizing the early warning signs of elder financial fraud could put a stop to it before it causes substantial financial and emotional damage to a senior.
Stay alert and question suspicious activity that might include:
• New names being added to financial accounts
• A new, younger friend being at their home most days of the week
• Credit card statements with their address but someone else’s name
• Incorrect names that appear on medical benefits or billing documents
• Large bank withdrawals not associated with recent purchases or payments
• Multiple checks being written to new friends that include “Happy Birthday” or “gift” in the notes section
While there might be an acceptable explanation for each activity, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
How to Protect Seniors From Elder Financial Fraud
Scam artists are most successful when they can isolate their victims. Limited social interaction puts seniors at increased risk of elder financial fraud. Schedule regular in-person visits with your senior. Ask about their friends and acquaintances, especially new ones. While they may be reluctant to discuss finances, it’s crucial they do because it could help uncover potential fraud.
If your senior realizes that they’ve been victimized, they might be ashamed to share details. Reassure them you will do what you can to help them recover funds and protect them from further attempts to steal their money and peace of mind.
Be patient with your senior. Forceful declarations about money and friends might cause them to shut down. Take it one step at a time. For example, you might share what you’ve learned about elder financial fraud so your senior can feel safe alerting you to an individual who threatens them or asks them to keep secrets.
You might also suggest that your loved one add you as a trusted contact on your bank and credit card accounts. While you won’t have access to the accounts, you may be contacted if the financial institution cannot reach the elderly account holder or there is suspicious activity related to the account.
Do You Suspect Elder Financial Fraud?
If you suspect elder financial fraud, report it to local law enforcement and Adult Protective Services. They can investigate and advise on the steps you should take to remove your loved one from the situation.