Law enforcement officials, elder lawyers and CPAs all have financial elder abuse in their sights, as a large generation of Americans reaches their senior years and becomes a target for scammers.
The numbers are high already—one in 20 seniors says that they have been the victim of financial abuse, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association. A recent article by The Journal of Accountancy, “Ways to stop elder financial abuse before it starts,” outlines pragmatic information about the most common scams.
Someone posing as a grandchild calls and requests money to get out of jail or to resolve a threatening legal problem. Sweepstakes and lotteries are also pretty common scams, yet people still fall for a call, letter, or email telling the senior that he or she has won a sweepstakes or lottery. However, to claim the winnings, the senior must first pay taxes, fees or other expenses. Another scam is phishing, where a senior citizen receives an email saying he or she has a refund coming from the IRS. In order to process the refund, he or she must provide banking details. These emails look convincing, but remember the IRS will never ask for this information by email.
There are several reasons why seniors are particularly vulnerable to falling victim to financial scams.
One reason is they may not be financially savvy or technologically adept. The scams have become more sophisticated and involve better use of technology. Seniors may have more disposable income, they’re living longer, and some are not very good with technology.
The conditions create a tempting target for criminals.
A fraud might go undetected for some time. This makes it more difficult to nab the fraudsters. When people do fall victim to scams, they also may feel embarrassed and don’t want to come forward. However, if they did, more people would be aware of these crimes. This may possibly prevent it from happening to someone else.
The hope is that informing the public in as many ways as possible about these scams will help families and seniors.
It may be common sense but a trusting older person is more easily persuaded to provide personal financial information, like bank account or credit card numbers or, worse, their Social Security number and date of birth. Seniors need to be reminded not to provide any personal information to anyone who they do not know.
Reference: Journal of Accountancy (November 15, 2017) “Ways to stop elder financial abuse before it starts”