June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), commemorated each year to create awareness for ageism and elder abuse in societies worldwide. Launched on June 15, 2006, the purpose of WEAAD, according to its website, is to "provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic, and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect."
One of the fastest-growing forms of elder abuse is financial fraud. Scam artists perceive the elderly as easy targets because they may be physically or mentally disabled, unable to handle their finances, lonely, or isolated. NASB recently held a webinar entitled Financial Fitness and Avoiding Exploitation, which explored many of the most common scams perpetrated against the elderly and how to avoid them. Co-host of the webinar, Jaylene Moss of NASB, says you should always be on the lookout for scammers because they are always looking for a victim. "Before you post anything on your social media accounts, think about the information that you are handing out to strangers," says Moss. "Scammers are looking for people who have just gone through a personal loss, an illness, or any other tragic event in their lives. Talk to friends and loved ones in times of crisis and loneliness instead of letting a stranger into your life who may trick you into losing your life savings."
Here are some of the most common scams perpetrated against the aged:
The grandparent scam. This scam involves tricking the older person into thinking that the person calling them is a grandchild. This is done by the scammer saying, "Grandma, do you know who this is?" and then adapting to whatever name is given. Once the fake identity is established, they ask the grandparent for money to solve a problem (pay a loan, get out of jail, fix a car) and ask them not to tell anyone. They usually ask for gift cards or money transfers, which cannot be traced.
The catfishing scam. This scam preys on the lonely older person, with the scammer "meeting" them through an online dating site with a false identity and intention of creating a friendly or romantic connection. Once the scammer has the victim's confidence, they convince them to send money for an emergency or a flight to see them.
The government impostor scam. For this one, a scammer will call identifying themselves as employees of a government agency, like the IRS or Social Security Administration, threatening with arrest or loss of benefits if they do not pay back taxes due or provide personal identity information.
Lottery winner scam. This scam occurs when you receive a call or letter from someone claiming that you have won a lottery or prize, and he or she requests you send money to claim your prize.
Unsolicited work scam. A scammer will arrive at a victim's home unexpectedly and offers to perform work at a reasonable cost. After the work starts, the perpetrator demands more money.
Computer virus scam. Many older people are slow to adapt to new technology and are easily convinced that their computer may have a virus or other problem. Whether it is a phone call from a phony tech company or a random pop-up on their computer saying they have a virus or other compromising issue, many people would believe the alert and do whatever they can to get rid of the problem, including giving personal data.
Here are some things you or your loved ones can do to reduce the risk of being taking advantage of by a scam artist:
- Get on the National Do Not Call Registry. Visit donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222. This will not only protect you from potential scams but will also keep your phone from ringing off the hook with annoying telemarketing calls.
- Keep in touch with others. The older we get, the harder it is to stay in contact with friends and family members, but isolation can make us vulnerable.
- Get out the scissors. Tear, or shred credit card receipts, bank statements, solicitations, and financial records before disposing them.
- Put down the pen. Do not sign any documents that you do not fully understand without first talking them over with an attorney or trusted family member.
- Always make sure you are dealing with a legitimate business. Check their reviews and search the company online with words like complaint, review, or scam.
NASB currently offers a free Identity Restoration service* through BaZing to any of our customers that have a Thrive or Prosper checking account. The service helps provide legal, financial, identity theft restoration services and peace of mind.
*Cell phone protection and personal identity theft benefit are subject to additional terms and conditions. Participating merchants on BaZing are not sponsors of the program, are subject to change without notice, may not be available in all regions and may choose to limit deals. Insurance products are: NOT A DEPOSIT. NOT FDIC INSURED. NOT INSURED BY ANY FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AGENCY. NOT GUARANTEED BY NASB.
If you or someone you know thinks they have fallen prey to financial abuse or scams, do not hesitate to contact the authorities. The United States Department of Justice has a variety of resource pages available to help you determine what point of attack is best for you so that you do not have to live in fear. For contact information for Adult Protective Services in your area, call the Eldercare Locator, a government-sponsored national resource line, at 1-800-677-1116, or visit their website here.