Elder Fraud – How to Avoid Being a Target

The sad reality is senior citizens are often targets for con or scam artists in order to divest them of their hard-earned money. Seniors with any mental or physical incapacities are even more at risk. According to the NCOA, “While likely under-reported, estimates of elder financial abuse and fraud costs to older Americans range from $2.9 billion to $36.5 annually.” Protecting yourself and your loved ones becomes easier once you understand how this population is targeted as well as how to safely invest and save your money in your golden years. 

Protecting your retirement funds, and the inheritance you have set aside for your children and your legacy is important. Today we are sharing ways you can keep yourself and your money safe to avoid elder fraud. 

  • Seniors who are lonely or isolated are at a higher risk from scam artists who prey on their need for friendship or connection. Beware of investors who offer unsolicited advice or who try to form bonds while asking personal questions about money or investments.
  • Do your research. If an opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is! Do your due diligence and research your investment including the risks involved, the company’s history and the rate of return. Don’t be fooled by a simple website – these can be created quickly and with a low cost to predators. Make sure you are thorough with your research.
  • Don’t let anyone prey on your fears. Many seniors have fears regarding medical costs, illness, retirement funds and managing their money long-term. Make sure any investments you make are not based on an impulsive decision or from fear based on a hypothetical future. Your important financial choices should be based on clear numbers, made only after you take the time to carefully consider any decisions before you make them. Having an estate plan in place can also help you feel secure when it comes to medical decisions, allocating money for future needs and protecting your family.
  • Be on the lookout! Investments or opportunities that include “off-shore” accounts, insider or special information, ask you to send or wire money, or that need you to invest in a short amount of time can be fraudulent. Take the time to research where the information and investment opportunities come from.
  • Take responsibility for your money. Make sure you regularly monitor your accounts and statements, and that you understand where all of your money is going. Identity theft is a real threat and keeping an eye on your accounts or your loved one’s accounts can help raise awareness if any red flags come up.
  • Unsolicited emails, phone calls, or letters should be thoroughly investigated before you contact someone about their offer. If you can’t find any information on the company from independent sources or research – chances are it’s a fraud.

Some common scams that can be perpetrated on the elderly are bogus magazine sales, healthcare or charity scams, or posing as a distressed relative in order to receive money. Just as it is important to know how to avoid fraud, it’s equally important to recognize when your loved one may be in trouble.  If your elderly loved ones show any of these signs, it’s possible they are being targeted for fraud and need assistance. 

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) provides materials and resources that can help you identify fraudulent scams as well as report anything suspicious. Our team is well versed in elder law and we can help you create a plan that protects your investments and your loved ones. For more information or to talk to a member of our team, contact us today!