It’s true that nothing is guaranteed but change — well, and that other thing we don’t like to discuss.
Since our parents and grandparents were younger many things have changed. Some changes are for the better, such as advances in technology and healthcare, some maybe not so much.
We live in a world where there are dangers lurking all around. We have to protect our seniors and educate them to protect themselves from people who want to cause them harm, be it physical or financial.
As family caregivers, we may worry about our senior loved ones when they venture out shopping or into areas where they may fall prey to criminals.
Unfortunately, seniors don’t have to leave home to be victims of scams.
Scams Hitting Home
We often worry about dangers in the home, such as falling in the bathroom, but there are other dangers from which we need to protect our senior loved ones that strike them while they’re “safe” at home.
Telemarketing fraud, home improvement scams, Medicare fraud, sweepstakes fraud and predatory lending are some ways seniors can become crime victims in their homes. There are simply too many.
- Recently we have heard people being victim of theft from an unusual place – their own mail box! In the past, no one thought that putting a letter in the mailbox was a risk. Our parents knew the mailman personally and didn’t consider taking a piece of mail to town to put in the post office. But now, it is recommended that your seniors do not put any outgoing mail in their mailbox with the red flag up, especially anything containing cash, checks or your personal data. Criminals have learned how easy it is to swipe mail from the box when they see the red flag and it can lead to the loss of your senior’s identity, especially when banking or other important personal information is shared via mail. Take any important mail directly to a post office or dedicated mail box with a delivery time the same day.
- Remind your senior to not answer the door to a stranger they are not specifically expecting. If your senior doesn’t have a peep hole, install one. It can be a do it yourself project or a quick handyman task. Seniors should be able to know who is at the door by looking through the peephole or a side window. Encourage them to ask for identification from whoever is there before opening up the door. A criminal may think there is something of value in the home to steal such as money, electronics or jewelry because our seniors have collected more over their lifetime.
- Remind your senior not to give out any personal information, such as social security number or credit card numbers, over the phone to anyone to anyone who has called them. The bank will not call them! Seniors are usually very trusting and don’t realize that someone may be out to harm them so willingly give this information to anyone who asks for it. Sometimes these scam callers sound very convincing. In the few situations where sensitive information must be provided over the phone, it is safest to do so in a call your senior originates to a number known to be their intended party.
- Have a conversation with senior loved ones about callers who are playing on their family love to extort money from them. Make them aware that a person calling from the police station or out of the country telling them to wire money to a grandchild in trouble is not real. Give them specific instructions or prompts for answering this type of call such as getting their name and phone number to return the call once they check it out. It is easy for criminals to find out basic information, such as grandchildren’s names, which can lead to scams.
- Encourage them not to give their money to “charities” that are unknown to them. If someone approaches them for a check, they should not just hand one over. Again, script out responses for them such as “I need to do some research first, can you give me some printed information or a phone number so that I can get more knowledge before I donate?”
- Buying products that promise a miracle cure for a disease or memory loss over the television or other media can lead to seniors parting with their money. Talk with your seniors about quack cures and claims that cost them not only money but may open them up to other scams. Sometimes they think they may be getting something for free and end up getting the bank account cleaned out.
Scammers, mail snatchers, fake charities, fraudulent telemarketers? Let’s call them by their real name – criminals!
Why Seniors are Victimized
Seniors are very attractive to criminals who want to get their life savings and are seen as easy marks. They simply don’t see it coming so they are too often victims.
Seniors may be embarrassed to report it to anyone when they are victims. They may not realize that they were scammed or be nervous that their family caregivers will think less of them and may even point to becoming a scam victim as grounds for assuming control of their finances.
This means the criminal will keep targeting seniors.
If family caregivers open the lines of communication with senior loved ones about the potential for being scammed in the home, it may prevent real life tragedies from happening.