While we sometimes enjoy the advances in technology that make our lives easier, these same advances make it more difficult for people to know who to trust and to recognize what's safe. Sometimes, the most serious financial crimes seniors face come from the people closest to them; but, more often than not, fraud schemes come through the technology we all rely on.
Having the ability to recognize potential scams and how to react to them will help keep you and the older adults in your life safer. Here is a list of the three most common fraud schemes, as well as tips for how to identify and prevent them.
1) Robocalls & Telephone Scams
Everyone is aware that fraudsters have used the telephone to commit crimes for decades. The mass use of cellular phones and the creation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) have given robocall and telephone scams greater efficacy. Technology has provided scammers the ability to not only disguise the number from which they're calling, but also make it appear as if the call is from a reputable organization or even a family member.
You likely have received the common “Can you hear me?” robocall. What you may not know is that when you verbally respond in any way, the scammer obtains a recording of your voice that AI can later manipulate and use in other scams against you or your loved ones.
A more sophisticated telephone scam that evolved from the “Can you hear me” robocall recently is the “Distress Call from a Friend/Family Member.” In this scam, you will receive a call and the caller will sound like a friend or family member. The caller may tell you that they're in jail, have been in a car cash, or even been kidnapped — but they will always tell you they need money as soon as possible to be released. The method of payment requested by the caller is also a good way to recognize this and other scams. Scammers will always request payment in a way that is difficult or impossible for you to trace and get back.
Have a heightened sense for requests for prepaid gift cards, cryptocurrency, and demands for cash via cell phone payment Apps. Anyone who insists that you can only pay this way is likely a scammer.
2) Phishing Emails
Phishing emails remain a prevalent tool for fraudsters. Seniors may receive seemingly legitimate emails asking for personal information or claiming they've won a prize. These emails often contain an email attachment, or have a clickable hyperlink embedded in the email. Educating seniors on how to identify phishing attempts, instructing them to never open the attachment or click the hyperlink, and emphasizing the importance of verifying the identity of the sender will help prevent falling victim to such phishing scams.
3) Elder Financial Abuse
Elder Financial Abuse is a criminal act. It occurs when "a person or entity takes, or assists in the taking, by undue influence, real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for wrongful use." Financial abuse deprives older adults of their resources, and often, the financial independence they worked their whole lives for.
Family and friends should be vigilant for the following signs of potential exploitation: evidence of theft and fraud; misuse of assets or credit; or the use of undue influence to gain control of money or property. McKinley Carter Wealth Services believes in the importance for seniors to consult with their financial professionals and trusted contacts before making significant financial decisions.
Here are important steps we can all take to protect ourselves and those we love from financial abuse:
- Plan: Adding a trusted contact on investment accounts allows your Investment Advisor to contact your trusted contact if questions or concerns about your health or welfare, suspected financial exploration or abuse, endangerment and/or neglect are suspected.
- Destroy: Shred receipts, bank statements, and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
- Choose Wisely: Carefully select a trustworthy person to act as your agent in all estate planning matters.
- Secure: Lock-up your checkbook, account statements, and other sensitive information when others will be in your home.
- Monitor: Periodically check your credit report to ensure accuracy.
- Consult: Speak with a professional before signing any document you don’t understand.
- Build: Establish a good working relationship with your financial advisor and the people who handle your finances. They can look out for any suspicious activity related to your account.
- Investigate: Request references and credentials before hiring anyone and bringing them into your home. Persons who do not need access to personal or financial information should not have it.
Protecting ourselves and seniors from fraud schemes requires awareness, education, and vigilance. By understanding the common schemes used against seniors, we can empower them to recognize scams and avoid becoming victims. Additionally, fostering open communication between seniors, their families, and investment advisors plays a vital role in creating a shield against deceptive practices. Together, we can work towards a safer environment for ourselves and the elderly population.