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What to Do if You’ve Been Scammed

Elderly woman reporting a scam.

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July 9, 2012

You thought this could never happen to your senior: the cruel and heartbreaking loss of their hard-earned life savings as a result of a scam.

Here are some key steps to follow if a senior has been scammed:

  • Contact the police. File a report with your local police department. If the theft did not take place in your area, file a report with the police from the area where you believe the theft took place.
  • Get a copy of the police report. You may need that documentation to support your claims to credit bureaus, creditors, debt collectors or other companies. If you are unable to obtain a copy of the police report, be sure to get the report number.
  • Close your accounts. If you notice any accounts under your senior's name that have been tampered with or opened without consent, close them immediately. Call each bank or company and then follow-up in writing. If there are fraudulent charges or debts on the account or if a new account has been opened, immediately file a fraud report with the bank's fraud department. If you close an existing bank account and open a new one, be sure to create new PINs (Personal Identification Numbers) and passwords.
  • Eliminate fraudulent new accounts. If a new account has been opened without your senior's knowledge and consent, ask the company with which the account has been opened if it has a fraud department. If it does, file a fraud report with that department.  If not, ask if the company will accept an ID Theft Affidavit from the Federal Trade Commission. You can print out an ID Theft Affidavit (U.S. only). The FTC also provides more information on fraud for U.S. residents. Canadians can reach out to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre for help with filing an official complaint.
  • File a federal complaint. The Federal Trade Commission is the U.S. federal consumer protection agency. The FTC, in conjunction with the FBI, maintains an Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse. The FTC aids identity theft investigations by collecting complaints from victims and sharing the information with law enforcement agencies, credit bureaus, companies where the fraud took place, and other government agencies. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre similarly collects information and criminal intelligence on fraud complaints from Canadians.
  • Initiate a fraud alert. The next step is to place a fraud alert on your senior's credit file as well as review the credit report. This will prevent a thief from opening any more accounts in the older adult's name. You should contact the major credit bureaus. If you place a fraud alert with one credit bureau, that credit bureau is required by law to contact the other bureaus. The other bureaus will include the fraud alert in their reports. However, to ensure that the alert is included in the credit file as quickly as possible, you should contact all credit bureaus immediately.
  • Follow-up. After a fraud alert is included in the credit history, your senor is entitled to receive a free copy of his or her credit report from each of the credit bureaus. Request a copy and review reports for unopened accounts, unfamiliar debts on the account, inquiries from companies you don't know and inaccurate information.

The important thing for you and a senior loved one to remember is that you're not alone. It's unfortunate, but scamming has become commonplace, and there's no reason to be embarrassed.

If you've been a victim of scam, here are important documents to keep on hand…

Your senior loved one won't be able to keep the originals of some of these important documents, so it is important that you make a copy. It is also a good idea to keep copies of the documents that support your claim that you have been a theft victim, such as a copy of your police report.

  • Police report
  • Identity Theft Affidavit
  • Bills with fraudulent charges
  • Documentation of accounts opened in your name without your consent
  • Copies of letters sent to credit bureaus and creditors

Credit bureau contact information:

  • Equifax - 800-525-6285
  • Experian - 888-397-3742
  • Transunion
    • 800-680-7289 (U.S.)
    • 800-663-9980 (Canada).

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