Protecting seniors from scams

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A recent survey found one in five people over the age of 65 have been a victim of a financial scam. World Elder Abuse Awareness day is June 15th, and Barry Bigelow has tips on what types of scams to watch out for and how to avoid becoming a victim.

Financial abuse is the misuse or withholding of an older adult’s resources by another. Signs of financial elder abuse include fraudulent signatures on financial documents, unpaid bills, changes in spending habits and sudden updates to financial documents like wills and estate plans. In almost 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member. If you believe someone you love is a victim of elder abuse, you can contact a local Adult Protective Services office or police.

The annual loss by victims of financial abuse is estimated between $2.6 billion and $36.5 billion. One in 10 Americans age 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse, but only one in 24 cases of abuse are reported. Social isolation and mental impairment, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, are two common things scammers look for when looking for their next victim. Older adults should be on the lookout for scammers and those looking to take advantage of their money. They should surround themselves with people they trust.

Social security scams involve a phone call from someone posing as a local or government official. They will claim your Social Security number has been compromised or has been suspended for fraudulent activity. The scammer then tries to get the victim’s personal information to reroute their Social Security payments to a different account. Between January 2017 and December 2021, nearly 312,000 Social Security scams were reported with overall losses topping $95 million. If you are targeted by this scam, don’t give out any personal information. Hang up and report it to the Social Security Administration.

In "Grandparent Scams", scammers may pose as panicked grandchildren in trouble, asking the grandparent to send them money immediately. They pull at your heartstrings so they can trick you into sending money before you realize it’s a scam. If someone calls claiming to be a grandchild or family member in need, the best thing to do is hang up and call that grandchild or another family member to verify your grandchild isn’t in trouble.

Seniors can protect their assets in a few different ways. The first one is learning to spot scammers. If you get a phone call, text or email from someone you don’t know and they threaten to seize your bank account, suspend your Social Security payments or take legal action against you, it’s most likely a scam. They will also try to pressure you into sharing your personal information. If this happens, hang up and report the scam. Be wary of unsolicited offers. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Never judge a person’s integrity by how they sound. They are trying to build your trust to get your personal information.

The next way is to set up a trust. Oftentimes, people want to keep their financial situation private. However, if you don’t have a will in place and you pass away, your assets will go into probate, which is a public forum. Giving scammers access to financial information they can use to target your loved ones. Even if you have a will in place, it is subject to probate. One way to avoid having your financial statements remain private is to use a trust. A trust can make sure your estate isn’t probated and potentially poached by scammers. And it can ensure a smooth transition of assets to your loved ones.

For more tips on how to protect yourself and loved ones from scams, follow Great Waters Financial on Facebook and LinkedIn.