Time to Talk about Elder Fraud

It is never too early to prepare for the unpleasant possibility that any of us could become targets of elder fraud. This topic though, is not always an easy one to discuss with our loved ones. The embarrassment of being a victim and the fear of losing independence are frequently cited as reasons why nearly 70% of instances of elder fraud go unreported. More than half of older adults subjected to scams fall victim to multiple scams. The very first tool for prevention begins with a simple conversation with your loved ones about how to prevent fraud from happening to them and to explore options to reduce their risk. These difficult conversations can save everyone a great deal of anxiety and money in the long run. If we can help to inform the older adults in our lives of the potential scams and about the options that exist to help avoid scams such as protecting their personal information, they can be better prepared to avoid them. It is also important that victims feel they have a safe outlet to report potential fraud, and to seek help without immediate fear of losing independence. Fortunately there are a variety of resources which can help to prevent scams while also respecting the independence of older adults. In addition to traditional identity theft protection services, there are financial monitoring programs available through monthly subscriptions which monitor bank accounts for suspicious activity. Older adults and designated family members can access these services and keep a closer eye on their bank accounts, or be alerted if irregular activity is observed. One underutilized option for older adults and families is available at no cost through your personal bank. When banks, especially at the local branch level, are made aware of elders who are concerned about potential exploitation or fraud, they can set tighter parameters for what triggers “red-flag notifications” on that specific account. Having a fairly regular routine for account withdrawals and deposits, helps banks and credit card companies identify irregularities in your finances and can be an easy way to prevent potential fraud from going unnoticed. Banks and credit card companies emphasize to notify them as soon as you or an older adult becomes aware of past or potential financial exploitations. The sooner a bank or credit company is notified of fraud, the more likely it is that the money can be retrieved or reimbursed. Another helpful option to curb the potential of being scammed is by setting up a separate debit/checking account which contains only a small portion of money; enough to make moderate purchases, but which does not contain a damagingly large sum of money. In this case, should a potential scammer get ahold of account information via a misguiding phone call, etc., the damage can be contained. There is no guaranteed way to eliminate fraud altogether, but there are many tools and methods available to us which can help decrease the likelihood that our parents, grandparents, and friends will become victims of financial exploitation. The more that we discuss these issues with the older adults in our lives, the better prepared we all will be if we should ever have to face them. The unfortunate reality is that 1 in 3 older adults will lose money to scams, exploitation and abuse this year. Are you are searching for ways to prevent your loved ones from being victims, or looking for assistance in dealing with someone who has become a victim of fraud? Ask CARIE at 215-545-5728 or 1-800-356-3606, or leave a comment here! Our blogger, Brian M. Bakke is a CARIE volunteer who is interested in educating older adults and their families about preventing financial exploitation. Brian became interested in this subject after learning that his grandmother was a target of scammers. We are happy he is part of CARIE’s team!  

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