Elder financial abuse happens when someone improperly or illegally uses a senior’s money or other property. It is the fastest growing form of elder abuse, with millions of Americans being exploited each year. Scams that affect seniors can happen to anyone, but seniors are typically more vulnerable to financial exploitation, since they are generally more trusting of others, often have considerable possessions or savings, and are often less tech-savvy and easier to scam online, on the phone, or on social media.
Here are the most common scams that affect the elderly. Being aware of the scams can help you protect your loved ones.
- Government Imposter Scams: These scams involve fraudsters using technology to change their phone numbers to make them appear as if they’re coming from a government agency. This may include agencies like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Social Security Administration (SSA), Medicare, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). These callers claim to be from a governing agency in attempt to steal information from the elderly person, such as social security numbers or bank account information, or they may use threatening language to force the senior to pay a fee using wire transfers or gift cards.
- Grandparent Scheme: This involves contacting the elderly person claiming that their grandchild or close relative is in trouble. They may pretend that they’re a police officer calling claiming the grandchild has been in an accident or committed a crime. They will then ask the elderly person to pay large amounts of money to save their relative, either by cash, gift cards or wire transfers. Typically, the scammer uses identifying information that’s easily found online to try and trick the victim and will use emotional language to force them to act quickly.
- False Investment Scams: In these schemes, the scammers will pose as financial advisors to exploit their victims. When it comes to these scams, they typically make promises that are too good to be true, like high returns with little to no risk involved. False investment scams may include Ponzi schemes where you must recruit others to get return on your investment, charitable gift annuities for charities that don’t exist, or prime bank scams where they claim to connect you with secret overseas markets that are not real.
- Tech Support, Robocalls, and Software Scams: This can include someone pretending to contact you from a company that you know and trust, like Apple or Microsoft, claiming that you are at risk and must download a software giving them access to your computer or you must pay a fee to fix the issue. The goal is to gain access to the victim’s banking details or other sensitive information. Often, these happen through phone calls but it’s not uncommon to see pop-up ads or scam emails targeting seniors.
- Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams: These work by someone reacting out to the older adult and saying that they’ve won something like a sweepstakes, huge contest or lottery that they never entered, and to receive their winnings they must pay the taxes and fees upfront with their bank account, or through untraceable methods like wire transfers or gift cards.
- Romance Scams: In this situation the fraudsters will create fake profiles on social media or dating apps to find their victims. They then use information that they find online to begin a “relationship” where they will then request money and other gifts from the senior. Often, they utilize sad stories or family emergencies to exploit the vulnerable and trusting nature of the older adult.
- Reverse Mortgage Scams: Reverse mortgages allow homeowners 62 and older to access their home equity, but scammers use this as a way to exploit the elderly. In these scams, criminals will claim to help you gain access to your equity but will actually steal the money or even the home through deed fraud.
- Elder Financial Exploitation: An unfortunate reality is that elder financial abuse often happens by someone that the senior knows and trusts. This may include people like family members, friends, neighbors, or caregivers. This person exploits the victim’s trusting nature to gain access to the senior’s assets, savings, or credit, and may even force them to sign over documents like power of attorney.
If you’re worried about your elderly relatives falling victim to fraud or financial abuse, there are steps you can take to help prevent it from happening. Learn the warning signs and be proactive in speaking with your relatives about scams to avoid and keeping open lines of communication so that they can be comfortable coming to you if something seems off.
If you or someone in your family are facing aging challenges, please give us a call at 317-300-5454 or email us at Shannon@AgingLifeCareConsultants.com. We’ll be happy to assist!