Fri 7, 2021

Protecting Seniors from Financial Exploitation


According to research by the Stanford Center, it was stated that those adults over the age of 65 are more likely to have been a victim of financial exploitation and fraud than an individual in their 40s. Moreover, it has also been reported that in a single year, 1 in every 20 older adults has been financially exploited by a family member. The annual financial loss by victims is reported to be at least $3 Billion.

In order to help senior citizens to avoid becoming victims of financial exploitation and fraud, it is imperative to first understand why they are targets in the first place, what schemes and tactics are commonly used against them and how these senior citizens can be protected against these financial frauds.

Why are Senior Citizens Frequent Targets of Financial Exploitation and Fraud?

The victims who become the targets of financial exploitation and fraud scams are considered to be in the most vulnerable segments of the population. This is why senior citizens are the most frequent targets and victims of fraud scams. Fraudsters target senior citizens as they may seem to be lonely, willing to listen to anyone, and are able to easily trust others as compared to younger individuals.

This is the reason why the elderly are easily exploited financially over the telephone, and even door-to-door or through advertisements as well. Senior citizens are top targets to schemes that are related to credit cards, contests, charities, health-care products, magazines, equity skimming, retirement investments, banking or wire transfers, and even insurance. Therefore, the elderly fall prey to such financial exploitation easily.

Common Elderly Fraud Scams

Outstanding Debts of Deceased

Scammers are able to use obituaries in order to get personal information about the deceased in attempts to take money from family members, especially grieving spouses. They usually claim that the deceased has an outstanding debt that must be paid immediately. Thus, such senior citizens are easily financially exploited.

Telephones

Phone scams are the most common scams used against senior citizens in order to financially exploit them. Due to their vulnerable state, seniors end up wiring or sending fraudsters money who claim to be a family member who is in trouble and needs money. Moreover, fraudsters can also claim to be someone they are not, and pretend to be a sick person who is in need of money in order to get treated. These kinds of fraudsters are also able to exploit the elderly by posing as fake charity.

Internet

Since senior citizens are usually not as tech-savvy with handling emails and using the internet, they are an easy target for scammers. Victims have been easily tricked and exploited into downloading fake anti-virus software that gives scammers access to their personal information on their computers.

Other Types of Frauds

Other types of frauds as reported by Age UK are listed below:

CORONAVIRUS SCAMS

Vaccine Scam

A fake text has been circulating telling people they’re eligible to apply for the Covid-19 vaccine. The wording is as follows: ‘we have identified that you are eligible to apply for your vaccine’. It then advises you to follow a link to get more information and ‘apply’.

This URL takes you through to a very convincing fake NHS website that asks for your personal details – including bank and bank card details to check your identity.

A genuine NHS site would never ask for your personal and bank details and would never ask you to press a button on your keypad. Please do not fall for this scam. You do not pay for your vaccine.

Track and Trace Scam

A new telephone scam is coming to light …. callers contact residents saying they are from NHS Track & Trace, telling the resident that they have been in contact with someone suffering from Covid 19 and need to have a test sent out to them. This is swiftly followed with a request for the resident’s bank details; the caller states that the test and results cost £500.

Please do not fall for this scam. If you need a test sent out to you because you are unable to attend a test site, this is done for free, both delivery and collection, followed up by the result.

Important! The NHS Test and Trace service will NOT: 

*ask for bank details or payments

*ask for details of any other accounts, such as social media

*ask you to set up a password or PIN number over the phone

*ask you to call a premium rate number, such as those starting 09 or 087

Covid-19 Doorstep Scam

Be aware that opportunists and criminals can take advantage of older people who are self-isolating during this period of Coronavirus outbreak.

There are people calling door to door claiming to be carrying out Coronavirus testing at your home for you on behalf of the NHS or your GP.

NHS  teams are NOT conducting any door to door testing for the Coronavirus – these are thieves trying to get into your home.

If anyone knocks on your door claiming to be conducting the tests please call the police

Anyone being offered “kindness” by cold callers by way of running errands, collecting prescriptions and doing shopping should not accept services from STRAN who may ask for cash up front, a credit card and its PIN, or gain trust simply to execute a more elaborate scam.

Since February 2020, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) has identified a growing number of reports of fraud where Coronavirus was mentioned, with victim losses totalling over £800k. Ten of these reports were made by victims that attempted to purchase protective face masks from fraudulent sellers. Reporting numbers are expected to rise as the virus continues to spread across the world.

How Seniors Can Be Protected from Financial Exploitation?

There are numerous ways how seniors can be protected from financial exploitation:

Do Not Let them Share their Personal Finances with Anyone

Seniors should not be allowed to give anyone, except a trusted family member, friend, or professional financial adviser to handle their personal finances or banking. Moreover, they should also avoid making financial purchases or investments without consulting an independent, trusted loved one or financial adviser.

Never Share Personal Information Via Phone

Seniors should also never share their PIN, social security number, bank account, Medicare, or even credit card, especially over the phone. Moreover, this kind of information should also never be sent via email. It is also recommended to shred these kinds of documents before disposing of them.

Work with Established Agencies

The elderly should get recommendations from friends or family for reputable help or services, such as gardening, housekeeping, or meal prep, who will have to enter their home. It is advised to work with an established agency, or request references and get a background check if they are personally hiring someone.

Beware of Door-to-Door Sales

It is important to know that most reputable companies no longer use this practice. This practice is a common practice of scammers in order to exploit seniors.

Don’t Act Immediately

One should be cautious of high-pressure sales pitches with too much urgency. Elders should slow down and not feel threatened to act immediately.

Never Sign Documents without Proof-Reading

Seniors should also never sign a contract without clearly understanding the terms of the agreement. It is imperative to always go through the documents before signing them, and be skeptical of free trial offers.

Ignore Prize Claims

Unexpected notifications by phone or email claiming that you have won a trip, prize, or money are a common fraud hoax in order to financially exploit elders.

Beware of Fake Charities

Not all charity organizations are legitimate. Therefore, it is advised to research extensively before donating to one.

Sign Up for Identity Theft Protection

This enables elders to monitor their personal, as well as financial information. This type of protection is able to provide aid and assistance to senior citizens if they end up financially exploited.

Use Precautions with Financial Information Online

It is always wise to shop with retailers that are well-known companies.  If seniors are making an online purchase, they should make sure the website is safe, and also review their privacy policy and make sure they use encryption. Because elders are not tech-savvy, they should be helped by trusted family members.