Recently, I was at my father-in-law's house when he answered the phone. I listened in the background as he listened, and then gave his address. Then he started to give his social security number... I clicked the receiver before he could finish. How could this financially savvy senior so easily be persuaded to give such vital information to a stranger?
As a caregiver, the last thing you want to do is to make your loved one feel belittled or incompetent, yet education and awareness are the best weapons for senior finance fraud protection. One way to broach the topic may be to share the five top senior finance scams with your loved one:
- Telemarketing Scams - An easy way to gain vital information, telemarketing scams come in a variety of forms - from investment schemes to sweepstakes, free vacation packages to phony charity fundraisers. The company that had called my father-in-law, for example, said they were with the "medical billing department" and needed his information for a "recent medical experience" that he had been given. They did not give specifics, or a name of the company or his providers.
- Sweepstakes and Charities - Not all charities are bogus, but believe it or not, sweepstakes some unethical charity groups are a HUGE way seniors are nickeled and dimed to financial distress. The $10 here and $20 there are precursors to bigger donations, increased trust and, eventually, fraud. As a caregiver, you need to know who your loved ones give to, and check up on the organization and its distribution of donations.
- New "best friends" - using companionship to gain trust, many predators are friends in disguise. A family friend fell into this trap, right under his caregiver's nose. A new "friend" moved to the area and befriended the recent widower at church. Soon she had a new car, jewelry and enough cash to leave town on her way to her next victim.
- Free Senior Finance Seminars - these are investment advisers who run "free" senior finance seminars, steering then into high-fee investments. Favorites are annuities, bonds and promissory notes that are usually legal, but a poor choice for a senior investor. Caregivers are targets as well. Even if the attendee doesn't invest, their contact information is obtained, landing them on "sucker lists" that are sold to con artists.
- Affinity Groups - Con artists LOVE close-knit groups of seniors that meet without their caregivers, whether they are religious, social or political in nature. The cons join the group and try to sell investment schemes such as Ponzi's with promised returns of up to 30%.
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