Posted by Cindy Wilson.
One of the best ways to honor the most important woman in our lives is to help protect her from scams that target the elderly.
Seniors are often targeted because criminals exploit generational differences; older people may remember a time when it was safer to be more trusting of others, especially people and organizations presenting themselves in a seemingly “official” capacity. In addition, older adults may keep quiet about a questionable financial transaction for fear of being viewed as incompetent by younger family members.
To help prevent your mom from becoming a victim of financial fraud or identity theft:
- Make her aware of the most common scams. The IRS publishes a yearly list of the most common tax scams, usually perpetrated by phone or email. The Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force also operates StopFraud.gov , a website chock full of tips and information important for seniors and their caregivers.
- Sign your mom up for identify theft protection services. These services can monitor credit in real time, and look out for the appearance of your personal and financial information online, where identity thieves can get their hands on it.
- Get your parents on opt-out lists. Mail from scammers often resembles benign junk mail. Put your parents’ address on the opt-out list at The Direct Marketing Associationʼs website , and legitimate vendors will no longer be able to send mail. Your parents will know that if junk mail continues to arrive, it is most likely from scammers, and can be reported to the U.S. Postal Service.
Parents may be resistant to any discussion about how they manage their money, especially if we appear to be lecturing them or threatening their independence.
AARP suggests that you choose your methods carefully to avoid causing offense.
Rather than telling your parents what to do, back your advice up with facts. For example, pointing out that it’s not possible to win a contest one hasn’t entered, or those collecting lottery winnings shouldn’t require the “winner” to part with their credit card details. Empower them with specific steps to take if they receive a suspicious phone call: Financial institutions will usually not call and ask for your personal information by phone. If you’re in doubt, you can offer to call back, and use the 800 number on the back of your credit card to verify the validity of the call.
If you are concerned that someone has gotten access to your mom’s credit card or bank account information, help her work with her financial institutions to cancel her cards and replace credit card numbers. She can also contact all three credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and Transunion—to place a credit freeze on her accounts. A credit freeze makes it impossible for anyone to get new loans and credit in her name.