‘Tis the Season for Financial Fraud

The holiday season is upon us and although many celebrations may look and feel different this year as we continue to isolate, one thing hasn’t changed and that’s the uptick in the number of scams targeting seniors.  Financial scams are so common, according to the National Council on Aging, they are considered “the crime of the 21st century”.

There are a host of ways fraudsters can gain access to money from elderly adults. Healthcare, prescription drug scams, funeral and cemetery fraud, bogus anti-aging products, and telemarketing scams are among the top scams aimed at seniors. 

Despite the clever schemes scammer use to separate seniors from their hard-earned dollars, there are ways older adults can protect themselves.  Awareness is the first step in helping to prevent fraud. Sadly about 90 percent of all reported financial elder abuse is committed by family members.  Adult children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews are often the perpetrators of abuse gaining access to bank accounts, stealing or threatening abuse, or neglect to extract money. 

By staying socially connected with others, older adults are less likely to fall victim to fraud.  Isolation is a significant risk factor for elder abuse. Staying active in the community, even virtually, can help seniors protect themselves.   Loved ones can look for warning signs of financial abuse including unusual banking activity, changes in behavior such as confusion or fearfulness, unpaid bills, or a caregiver who denies outsiders access to a senior under their care. 

By reminding seniors never to give out personal information over the phone, carefully monitoring bank accounts and credit card statements, taking older adults off multiple mailing lists, and joining DO NOT CALL, seniors can stay safe from scams.  Always ask for information in writing from businesses and charities, use direct deposit for benefit checks, and avoid letting mail sit for long in the mailbox.  

With so much commerce taking place online due to the pandemic, it’s easier for fraud and theft to occur.  Stay vigilant in the digital world, bring all packages inside as quickly as possible and consider using an outdoor camera to prevent deliveries from being stolen from front porches and entryways.  

Learn more about how to avoid scams and check for consumer alerts by following this link to the Federal Trade Commission website.