In any given year, the FBI estimates that millions of U.S. older adults are defrauded to the tune of approximately $3 billion. Further, just one in 44 of those cases are ever reported, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association.
The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to make seniors an even easier target, said fraud prevention expert Andy Grover, chief risk officer for Bangor Savings Bank.
“Isolated seniors can become lonely – and happy to talk to new people – and as a result, are more apt to fall victim to a scam, especially if loved ones aren’t checking in on them as often,” Grover noted. June is World Elder Abuse Awareness month, so in honor of that, Grover offered the following tips on how senior living and care staff can help seniors and seniors’ families avoid financial fraud.
- Have discussions with seniors about common scams
- Teach seniors about the dangers of social media fraud by encouraging them to only accept friend requests from individuals they personally know, and ensure privacy settings are enabled so they are not sharing too much personal information
- Encourage seniors to ask for additional details in writing before engaging in any financial transactions
- Be aware of new friends or romantic interests in the senior’s lives
- Confirm the senior has a power of attorney and make sure he/she has access to their online banking
- Encourage seniors to check their bank statements regularly
- Understand common signs of elder fraud including unpaid bills that the senior should have the means to pay, out-of-character purchases, sudden changes to their will, trust, insurance or other financial documents, and abrupt or unexplained transfers of assets
- If a scammer accesses a patient’s accounts, it is important to place all accounts on alert immediately
- Remind residents of the following as frequently as needed:
- Don’t take calls from people you don’t know
- Never give out any personal information over the phone unless you know and trust the person
- Be cautious when using joint accounts to plan for incapacity or help paying your bills.
- Never wire money to a stranger under any circumstances.
- If someone asks the senior for personal information, encourage them to report it to you or a loved one
- If it doesn’t feel right – such as winning a lottery you didn’t enter – it probably isn’t.
- If the person you’re communicating with tells you not to tell the bank, that’s a red flag.
- Another red flag? Paying money to get money.