How to Protect Older Adults and Loved Ones from Fraud
As autumn draws near, it’s time to consider the holiday season ahead. Although fraud can happen to anyone anytime, it’s especially concerning during the holidays. Older adults and loved ones often feel the brunt of these attacks. The FBI reported Americans aged 60 and older lost nearly $1.7 billion in 2020, with fraud claiming over 92,000 victims that year.
When scam artists target our loved ones, it pains us. You might not even know your loved one has fallen victim to fraud until scam artists have reduced their life savings or completely drained them. However, there are signs to watch for and ways to protect your family against financial loss.
Monitor Caregiver Activity
Older adults with impairments are more likely to fall victim to financial elder abuse. It doesn’t matter who the caregiver is, either. Friends, family, neighbors, and even professional caregivers can be at the heart of the problem. When it happens, financial fraud often comes at a high cost.
If you have access to financial accounts and credit cards, monitor activity. Look for patterns of unusual spending. These might include large and frequent transactions — online or offline.
Watch for missing valuables. Financial fraud doesn’t always occur with bank accounts. It also can happen when valuable belongings, cash, and personal property go missing.
Also, keep an eye out for sudden changes to your loved one’s will or power of attorney.
Finally, if you notice anything suspicious, report it. Some situations may require legal action with a financial elder abuse attorney.
It’s challenging to monitor older Americans’ finances unless you are privy to their accounts. You might need view-only access from the bank, which may require additional documentation.
If you cannot get view-only access, talk with your loved one about giving you authority with a financial power of attorney. If they cannot make their own decisions, you might need an attorney’s help.
- Contact the bank to discuss your options for view-only access.
- Monitor accounts for suspicious checks or other transactions.
- Watch for overdrafts and any unpaid bills.
- Watch for unauthorized transactions, transfers, and withdrawals.
- Contact the bank immediately to report any suspicious activity.
Stop Phishing Scams
Phishing and imposter scams are harder to spot if your loved one lives independently. These scams take many forms, including romance, financial institution imposters, government imposters, charities, sweepstakes, and more.
Phishing scams can arrive via email, text message, phone call, or even at the doorstep. The scam artist’s goal is to access your personal details, financial information, login credentials, and more.
Monitor emails and text messages. Look at the sender’s details. Generic emails from unknown senders are one red flag. However, imposters have grown proficient at creating lookalike websites and emails for legitimate businesses. Always contact the company directly to confirm they emailed.
Monitor your loved one’s behavior for signs of depression or anxiety. Some scam artists use scare tactics to gain access to information.
Set all mobile devices and computers to update security software and firewalls automatically. Consider installing a reputable virtual private network on all electronic devices, including cell phones and tablets. These add an extra layer of protection.
The Final Word
If you want to protect your older loved ones against fraud, start with a conversation and go from there. Decide which steps make sense for you, whether that means adding you to accounts for view-only purposes or considering a financial power of attorney.
Recognize that financial fraud can happen to anyone, anywhere, and older Americans are more vulnerable to scam artists. Finally, if you notice any suspicious activity or believe your loved one has fallen victim to fraud, report it immediately.
Sign up for account alerts if your loved one hasn’t done so already. Account alerts notify you of any suspicious activity or transactions. Consider account alerts as an extra pair of eyes helping you monitor accounts to keep your loved one safe from financial fraud.
Report any suspicious account activity to the bank or credit card company. If your loved one falls victim to a phishing scam, report any suspected identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Finally, shore up any loose ends by ensuring all security software is updated and consider subscribing to a virtual private network or other identity protection service.
You and your loved one are not alone. We’re here to help and provide you with the resources to guard against financial fraud now and in the future.