July 27, 2012
By Dr. Amy D'Aprix, expert in aging, retirement and caregiving
I received a letter from a caregiver who was reeling from the news that her mother had been the victim of a senior scam. Pam was concerned about her mother, who was extremely embarrassed and had to be convinced by family members to report the crime to police. Pam wanted to know how she could support her mother through this crisis as well as prevent fraud from happening again with any of her other loved ones.
Pam's mother is not alone. The incidents of senior scams have skyrocketed over the past 10 years. Con artists are very smart. They are professionals who have honed their skills over a long period of time. They intentionally victimize older adults like Pam's mother because they are aware of the many factors that make so many seniors good fraud targets, including illness, loneliness, and the possibility of large bank accounts.
The biggest reason that seniors are chosen as victims is the likelihood that they will be too embarrassed in the event of a crime to ever report it. That's what Pam discovered when her mother first refused to tell the police what had happened. It's understandable that a senior would feel embarrassed to admit to the police or even family members that they have been a victim. They may feel weak or foolish. Besides, the bureaucracy of the legal system can be overwhelming.
Most Common Types of Scams
Con artists know how to prey on a person's weak spots. These are a few of the most common scams against seniors:
- Telemarketing. Usually con artists convince their victims to give out valuable information, such as their credit card or social security number, over the phone.
- Identity Theft. Not just a problem within the senior community, identity theft has become a very serious issue since the use of technology has become commonplace. Thieves use personal information garnered on the phone or in a person's mailbox to take over someone's identity, securing credit cards and running up credit lines.
- Charity Scams. Con artists posing as charity representatives ask for credit card donations over the phone and steal credit card numbers or charge high amounts to their bogus charities.
Ways to Protect Your Senior Loved One from Con Artists
Besides being there to comfort your older parent and to reassure him or her that there is no need for embarrassment because con artists are very skilled, here are some ways you, as a caregiver, can help protect someone you care for from con artists:
- Register your loved one for the Do Not Call list
- Shred all important documents
- Post "No Solicitation" signs at the front door
It's also important to be your own detective when you suspect something is not right. Pay attention to your aging parents and take time to listen to them. Has there been any unusual financial activity? Is someone suspicious hanging around the house? And most of all, if a crime does occur, reassure your parent that you are there for them no matter what and encourage them to report the situation to the police.
Read more articles by Dr. Amy on her blog, Ask Dr. Amy.
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