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How to Protect Your Elderly Parents from Being Scammed

Dana Larsen
By Dana LarsenApril 7, 2016

Elderly scams are the most common form of fraud. Sadly, scam artists relentlessly prey on senior citizens because they are easy targets; they tend to be gullible, live alone and usually do not have someone watching over their finances regularly.

Seniors are often vulnerable to cons and scammers for many reasons, including impaired judgment from cognitive impairment, financial ignorance and loneliness. Being aware of these scams can help you protect your elderly parents so that they do not fall victim to fraud and and can be spared not only heartache, but also financial duress.

Top Financial Scams Targeting Seniors

The National Council on Aging discovered top financial scams targeting seniors, which are outlined below to help you avoid senior scams and fraud, and educate your family. Awareness can help your family stay vigilant to forewarn your senior loved ones about these cons. We have also provided some tips to help prevent elderly scams in your family.

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From email scams to investment schemes, lottery scams and sweepstakes — the scamming and fraud problems are never-ending. Here are 10 common tactics fraudsters use to separate seniors from their money, which are fully discussed in our article, “Top 10 Senior Scams and How to Avoid Them.”

  • Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Scams
  • Charity Scams
  • Counterfeit Prescription Medicines
  • Email Scams
  • Fraudulent Anti-Aging Products
  • Investment Schemes
  • Medicare Card and Medicaid Card ID Theft Scam
  • Repair Fraud
  • Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams
  • The Grandparent Scam

Ways to Protect Your Elderly Parents From Being Scammed

It is important to be aware of the most common scams listed above to help your aging loved one avoid victimization. Caregivers and families can take the following steps to identify any red flags in their seniors’ lives:

  1. Get Involved with the Finances
    • Be aware of aging parents’ finances, including monthly bills, accounts and passwords
    • Be ready to step-in when managing finances becomes a burden
  2. Educate Your Elderly Parent Against Giving out Their Financial Information
    • Warn parents about giving out their personal banking information, credit card numbers or social security numbers (especially for charitable donations or confirmations of sweepstakes)
  3. Be Aware of Questionable Salespeople
    • Salespeople need to be able to provide written information about their company, including the company name, address and telephone
    • Warn aging parents about ‘get rich quick’ schemes
  4. If Someone Calls from a “Government Agency,” Request More Info
    • Educate aging parents to ask for a certified letter on official letterhead for security purposes
  5. Visit Your Aging Loved One Regularly
    • Be aware of what your aging parent does on a regular basis
    • Ask about phone calls and emails they receive to take note of anything out of the ordinary
    • Watch for a full mailbox as large numbers of mailings from promotion companies could indicate the elderly person is on a “sucker list”
  6. Tell Your Parent Never to Hire Someone Who Shows up at Their Door
    • Warn your aging parent about door-to-door salespeople as these people may take money but never do (or fully complete) the work
  7. Educate Your Parent to Never Make a ‘Spur-Of-The-Moment’ Decision
    • If a salesperson says that an opportunity will be missed if they don’t make a decision, it is likely a scam
    • Legitimate companies do not pressure people to buy or act
  8. Avoid Investments That Promise Huge Profits
    • Warn aging parents that ‘high-return’ investments are not guaranteed and are usually too good to be true
    • Legitimate companies will tell consumers about possible risks and it is likely that aging parents are not in a good place to take huge risks if they’re retired and dependent on their current finances
  9. Put the Seniors Number on the National ‘Do Not Call’ Registry 
    • Call 1-888-382-1222 or visit www.donotcall.gov to help limite phone calls from telemarketers

Stay Educated on the Latest Scams

Unfortunately, fraud against older Americans is a serious problem affecting thousands every year.

To stay on top of the very latest scams hitting seniors, sign up for scam alerts from the National Consumer Protection Bureau.

Have you or an elderly loved one been affected by a scam? Share your story or your tips about how to avoid these scams in the comments below.

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Dana Larsen
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Dana Larsen
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