Posted by Cindy Wilson on May 5, 2016, updated January 2019
Scams that target the elderly can sometimes threaten their financial well-being. Unfortunately, seniors are often targeted because criminals exploit generational differences, preying on older people who may be more trusting and less aware of potential scams. 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 those close to you from becoming victims of financial fraud or identity theft, consider these steps:
- Be aware of the most common scams. The IRS publishes a list of the most common tax scams , usually perpetrated by phone or email. The Task Force on Market Integrity and Consumer Fraud also has a website with a variety of fraud resources.
- Sign up for identify theft protection services. These services can monitor your credit in real time and look for the appearance of your personal and financial information online, where identity thieves can get their hands on it.
- Get 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 Association’s website , and legitimate vendors will no longer be able to send mail. If junk mail continues to arrive, it’s most likely from scammers, and they can be reported to the U.S. Postal Service.
To be the best advocate for your loved one, understand that some seniors may be resistant to any discussion about how they manage their money. AARP suggests being careful to avoid causing offense. Rather than telling them what to do, back your advice up with examples. Empower them with specific steps to take if they receive a suspicious phone call. Financial institutions will usually not call and ask for personal information by phone. If in doubt, call the 800 number associated with an account or on the back of a credit card to verify the validity of the call.
If there are any concerns that someone has gotten access to a credit card or bank account information fraudulently, make sure the card is cancelled or account numbers are replaced. All three credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and Transunion—can also place a freeze on credit accounts. A credit freeze makes it impossible for anyone to get new loans and credit with stolen information.