Did you know that Financial
exploitation of older adults has increased 12% since 2008
Oh, if only this was
a tale about the beloved holiday classic, but it’s not;
this is actually about real life Grinches who take and steal
the holiday cheer from people, mostly the elderly.
It’s the holiday
season for anyone who celebrates and in many cases, most of
us want to make sure that Santa knows that we’ve been
good this season, so we go out of our way to try and be as helpful
as we possible. And being the holiday season, many families
make a point to try and get together with the grandparents or
parents in order to celebrate.
As one article dictates
[article about checking in on mom
and dad], the holidays can sometimes be a difficult one
for the elderly.
Locations will get colder
during this time of year, especially in places that normally
get snow or drop to below freezing temperatures; some are in
senior or assisted living communities and while active, may
feel a bit isolated when not connected to their loved ones this
season. But this isn’t a story about visiting more –
you should – this is a story about Grinches.
There have always been
scammers, probably since the dawn of time. These people rely
on a person’s trusting or naïve nature to get them
to do things, usually handing over bank account and social security
information. Since the rise of the internet, more and more of
these scammers have of course flocked online and sometimes in
the web, everyone is a mark. From ID theft and phishing scams,
the last few years have seen a rise in Internet scams, targeted
at both individuals and companies.
But lately it seems
that grandma and grandpa are number one with a bullet.
And scammers don’t
need the Internet to get them. Consider the elderly woman who
nearly signed over her bank account if it wasn’t for a
friendly Fed Ex carrier who thought the whole thing sounded
suspicious; or the two elderly persons who, at separate times,
were conned out of thousands of dollars by the ‘found
a lottery ticket’ and ‘found a bag of money’
Recently, it hasn’t
been just strangers who had hit this population – caregivers,
both in home and at assisted living facilities, and even family
members have gotten in on the act. A 90-year woman fell for
a scam from her own niece and I’ve even heard from someone
that their own sister had been stealing money from their mother.
are the elderly targeted and what can be done to prevent it?
A new study
done by professors at UCLA has found that, as we age, the
ability to distinguish and notice suspicious behavior dwindles.
The area of the brain where people make decisions based on risk
diminishes the older we get, as noted by two test studies between
those who were aged 55 to 80 and those 21 and under. Basically,
those gut feelings we get when we see someone doing or acting
suspicious is at its highest when we’re younger and its
lowest the older we get. Read more about the Brain/Elderly
This isn’t just
a problem of trust either. According to the National Association
of Area Agencies on Aging, financial fraud from the elderly
population costs about three billion dollars a year on average,
which is a 12% increase since 2008, and in 55% of those cases,
it’s perpetuated by a family member.
what’s a loving family member to do? Here are a few things
• As with anything,
always make sure you know who you’re talking to. In cases
of telemarketers over the phone, try having them call back or
hand it off to someone else in the home. This is especially
important for anyone who has a hearing or memory problem.
• Never ever ever EVER give out your personal information,
such as address, phone number, or social security number to
anyone you don’t know. Even to someone you do know. And
always ask WHY they need it.
• Never open the door for someone you don’t know.
The common scams are that of the ‘can I borrow your phone?’;
this is usually after someone has ‘just had an accident’
or whose ‘car has broken down’. Big clue –
if they don’t look as though they’ve been in an
accident or have walked for a while looking for a phone, it’s
probably not true. Also, if they don’t have a car or car
keys with them.
The biggest problem with online scams, I believe, is that there
are still people out there who still think the Internet is safe.
It’s not. As one article mentioned, even .org sites shouldn’t
be trusted just because they say .org in the link. Everyone’s
a target online if they aren’t careful and with seniors
and baby boomers jumping on the tech wagon these days, there
is now more people online and more targets.
• It goes without saying, again, that you should never
ever EVER give out personal information to anyone online.
• When dealing with online shopping or online banking,
always make sure of the site you’re on and never follow
links from an email.
• Never follow links from email.
• Always type in the address to a bank site. Anything
dealing with financials will usually have an https attached
to it (means it’s secure)
Ultimately, the big
thing here is to speak with your senior about the dangers. Remember
how they sat you down when you were a kid and told you about
not taking candy from strangers? Same principle, only speak
to them like the adult they are.
- Article by Regina
Woodard exclusively for Assisted Living Directory