Why The Elderly Are Targeted for Holiday Scams (UCLA Study) and What We Can Do About It

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Regina Woodard

Summary: Regina talks about a UCLA study that dissects exactly why the elderly are targets for scams. Regina offers what a loving family member can do to help protect the elderly loved ones in their family.

Author: exclusively for Assisted Living Directory

Regina is a regular contributor to Assisted Living Directory

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 weve 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 isnt a story about visiting more you should this is a story about Grinches.

Or scammers.

There have always been scammers, probably since the dawn of time. These people rely on a person’s trusting or nave 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 dont need the Internet to get them. Consider the elderly woman who nearly signed over her bank account if it wasnt 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 scams.

Recently, it hasnt 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 Ive even heard from someone that their own sister had been stealing money from their mother.

Why 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 were younger and its lowest the older we get. Read more about the Brain/Elderly

This isnt 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.

So what’s a loving family member to do? Here are a few things

  • As with anything, always make sure you know who youre 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 dont know. Even to someone you do know. And always ask WHY they need it.
  • Never open the door for someone you dont 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 dont look as though theyve 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 shouldnt be trusted just because they say .org in the link. Everyone’s a target online if they arent 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 youre 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.

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– Article by Regina Woodard exclusively for Assisted Living Directory

Responses to this article:

David Wrote:

Not only are the elderly targets of scams, the general public are also targets ‘in the name of the elderly and seniors.’ I have heard of people collecting donations for fake causes, and for ‘helping the elderly’ during the holidays.

20 December 2012 at 10.16 am