Your parents protected you when you were young, but as your parents age, they might need you to protect them. In addition to the health problems that often come with age, there are many people who prey on the aged. From confidence scams to identity theft, elder abuse scams can be a constant worry to people with elderly parents. But there are some things you can do to help keep them safe, and ease your mind.
Why Are Seniors Targeted?
Seniors are targeted by identity thieves for a number of reasons. For one, they are perceived as being more naïve than younger adults, which makes them more desirable targets for thieves. Age related cognitive decline, memory loss and dementia leave many seniors more vulnerable to predators, as it may take little in the way of coaxing to persuade them to share personal details or financial information. Seniors that live alone and are socially isolated are seen as easy opportunities, as they may be eager to talk to anyone who calls or knocks on the door.
Criminals also target older adults because they tend to have higher cash reserves and are less likely to open new lines of credit less. It could be months before they check their credit report and realize that they have fallen victim to identity thieves. Seniors are also less internet savvy than younger adults, so they are often the targets of online scams designed to trick them into providing their personal and financial information. While most 30-50 year olds are well aware of the spam emails and phishing scams used by online thieves, older adults may not be familiar with how ubiquitous these online scams have become.
Seniors who live in residential facilities are especially at risk, as caretakers and other employees may gain access to their personal records. There have been incidents in which nursing home employees were discovered selling the personal information of clients to identity thieves. As unfortunate as this is, an even more unfortunate fact is that friends and family members of older, impaired seniors are often found to be the responsible parties in cases of elderly identity theft.
1. Consult an attorney
There are several legal options you and your parents can take to protect their assets from scams, ranging from basic financial counseling to placing assets in trust or granting power of attorney. Talk to an experienced elder law attorney. You can pay the attorney’s fees on behalf of your parents, but the attorney should represent your parents’ interests and not yours.
2. Set up a trust
A trust is a legal relationship in which a one person, called a trustee, manages property on behalf of someone else, called the beneficiary. The trust itself owns the property, while the beneficiary receives the proceeds. By setting up a trust and appointing a reliable trustee, your parents can protect a wide range of assets. This can be a drastic step, so make sure you and your parents understand all the implications before proceeding.
3. Protect financial information
The elderly are common targets for identity theft. Simple steps like buying a shredder can go a long way toward keeping important information out of the hands of thieves. Talk to your parents about careful management of sensitive financial and personal information.
4. Keeping your personal details private
Advise your elderly parent or relative to never give out their phone number, address, bank details or any other personal information to anyone who emails, phones, or knocks on the door. Remind them not to give out personal or financial information to a stranger – no matter how friendly or persistent the caller or visitor is. Even if someone claims to represent a well-known charity, your loved one should hang up the phone.
5. Answering the door safely
If anyone comes knocking on the door that they are not expecting then they need to know how to answer the door safely. This is important to protect them from any bogus callers or distraction burglers who trick vulnerable people in order to gain entry to their home.
6. Further Support
If you or someone you know has fallen victim to a scam, there is nothing to be ashamed about. It’s common unfortunately. It’s important that you talk about it with relatives and friends. Make neighbours aware of any bogus callers, and report it to the police.
Way To Prrevent Your Elderly Parents From Scams
The best way to avoid becoming a victim of identity thieves is to employ the following measures to prevent your personal information from falling into the wrong hands:
- Do not provide your personal information by phone, mail or on the internet unless you have initiated contact with the recipient using verified contact information.
- Shred all documents that contain financial or personal information before discarding them. Small wastebasket shredders can be purchased for a reasonable price at most office supply stores.
- Keep track of your credit cards, and do not use them in untrusted establishments. Keep a watchful eye on wait staff and salespeople who run your card at restaurants and retail stores.
- If possible, use a locked mailbox for incoming and outgoing mail. Avoid putting the flag up on your mailbox if you’re sending out bills, as this can invite thieves. When ordering checks, have them delivered to your door rather than left in an unlocked mailbox.
- If you use online banking or make purchases over the internet, make sure your system is secure from spyware and viruses. Keep your antivirus software up to date and only make purchases from secure websites. Never send personal information via email, and use strong passwords on websites where you share financial details.
- Never sign blank insurance claim forms.
- Use caution when purchasing drugs on the Internet. Do not purchase medications from unlicensed online distributors or those who sell medications without a prescription.
- Never give blanket authorization to a medical provider to bill for services rendered.
- Ask your medical providers what they will charge and what you will be expected to pay out-of-pocket.
- Do not respond to emails requesting that you verify your account information, password or credit card details.
- Check your bank statements carefully each month for unauthorized activity, and request a copy of your credit report several times per year to make sure no one else is using your identity.
Ideas on how best to protect your Elderly Parents from Scams