The elderly population in the U.S has been on a steady incline for the past few decades. With more seniors living longer new challenges arise. Unfortunately, many seniors become vulnerable to different types of abuse, neglect, and exploitation as they age. The National Council on Aging estimates that financial fraud and abuse against seniors costs older Americans up to $36.5 billion each year.
The perpetrators of financial abuse can be anyone, such as family members, paid caregivers, or strangers who hack into systems and steal vital financial data. You must be well informed about financial fraud to know what to do about it and keep the seniors in your life safe.
Vulnerability and financial fraud
Financial exploitation can leave any target, such as businesses and individuals, with significant losses. However, when you combine this general risk with some of the cognitive deficits common to the elderly population, the result can be financial devastation. Risk factors that place seniors at a higher-than-average risk of becoming a victim include:
- Needing assistance with activities of daily living.
- Poor health.
- Fixed income.
- Living with no spouse or partner.
- Not using regulated social services.
Just a few short years ago, financial fraud had to be committed face-to-face with the senior, another family member, or banking institution. Today, attackers can sit in the comfort of their home and electronically attack funds in banking institutions, social security information, and other vital data that can unlock several accounts. These types of security incidents might not even be reported by the victims because they are often not required by law to report.
Importance of prevention
Recovery after financial abuse or exploitation can be nearly impossible. Taking steps to prevent it from ever happening is the best strategy to keep seniors safe. Here are a few strategies you can use:
Know the types of abuse
The underlying message around financial fraud is that you and any seniors you care for should never feel safe when it comes to their money. Types of financial fraud range from someone selling them services they don’t need to complex online identity theft. Here are a few of the types of fraud you should know about.
- DDoS attacks happen when hackers take control of a company’s servers, networks, or devices. During a DDoS attack, the attacker can access vital information about hundreds or thousands of people. To protect seniors, be sure to assist them with choosing reputable companies when they do business.
- Phishing happens when hackers send emails to a bank’s or other business’ customers that look legit. The email will usually ask the user to provide an account login, personal data, or a password to gain access to an account.
- Fake prize scams happen when a perpetrator emails, texts, calls or visits a senior at their home and offers a non-existent prize just for participating in a survey or signing up for a new service. They usually request a credit card number to register or cover shipping and handling charges, which gives them all the information they need to go on a shopping spree.
Talk about money
One of the best ways to keep seniors safe from financial fraud is to talk about it. If you’re an adult child, this may feel a bit uncomfortable for both you and your parents. However, a simple chat about their bills, banks, and common schemes they can encounter could be the difference between safety and financial problems. If the talk ends with them being willing to let you or another trusted family member or friend help with the bills, go ahead and take over. Just keep them intimately involved with where their money is going as long as possible.
Some family members feel a sense of security when the seniors in their life move into a healthcare facility such as an assisted living or long-term care facility and may stop helping with banking needs. However, it’s crucial that you know that nursing home abuse and neglect is prevalent, too. Continue the talks about money with your parent or other senior and ensure all financial documents are behind lock and key. Better yet, keep this information in someone else’s home and bring it to the facility when you need to discuss money matters.
Check online security
Many banking institutions have moved to online methods of checking your accounts, transferring funds, and signing important financial documents. While this has made running your checkbook smoother and more convenient, it also creates a myriad of new dangers to prevent against.
Before you or your elderly parents do any online transactions, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable bank. Never sign any documents that you don’t know precisely who sent it. If you’re ever unsure, ask for verification or call the banking institution to ensure you know exactly who you’re doing business with before you sign on the line.
Keeping the elders in your life safe
Caring for aging parents or other friends and family can be challenging. You may worry that they will fall victim to various kinds of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Learning how to prevent financial fraud and abuse from ever happening is a significant challenge, but one that you can overcome. Use these strategies to keep the seniors in your life safe from online scams, identity theft, and other forms of financial fraud.