Elder abuse comes in many forms. One trend that’s on the rise is financial scams. In fact, True Link Financial, a company that provides account monitoring software, projects that elder financial abuse may cost families as much as $36.5 billion each year!
While occasionally scammers go door-to-door pretending to be someone the victim knows, most scams occur online and over the phone. The American Bankers Association has deemed June “Safe Banking For Seniors Month,” – so we’d like to join in and offer some helpful tips for you and your loved ones!
Below are seven instances seniors should be wary of, as they likely indicate a scam.
- False debts – When someone calls or shows up at your door declaring that you have an outstanding debt, get any information you can and tell them that you will get back to them. If the person represents a legitimate business like the IRS, your bank or credit card company, call the numbers that you already have on file in your financial records (not the phone number this person may have given you).If the caller threatens to send authorities, tell them to send them. They most likely want you to be scared. Besides, if your debt is that far in the rears, you’d have gotten some kind of communication before now. Ask for it in writing. Then verify your records.
- Gifts – Be wary of any gifts, like magazine subscriptions, that show up repeatedly without being ordered. A bill may soon follow stating that you owe for any and all items that you have not returned – even if you didn’t order or want them.
- Lotteries & winnings – Never pay for money that you’ve won. Plain and simple.
- Investments – Never make new investments over the phone, especially if you haven’t seen the product or property that is being considered. Always do your homework on the item: get a second option and/or talk to a financial advisor.
- Relatives – Relatives always pull at our heartstrings. Scammers know this and will try to impersonate someone close to you. If someone calls you claiming to be a member of your family with a financial emergency, first find out where they are. Then, call your relative back on the numbers that you already have on file for them. If you can’t reach those numbers, look up a number to the location that they gave you and call them directly.
- Making purchases - Any time you’re ordering something new, be sure to read the fine print, which might be laden with hidden terms and fees. Just to be on the safe side, check reviews and compare products before making the final purchase.
- Requests for personal information -- If an entity is reaching out to you, they should already have your information. Never give account numbers or your social security number over the phone (or online) unless you initiated the call. Don’t even verify parts of it. Often, scammers will have incomplete information and they will work with what they do know, in order to get you to verify the rest. At that point, they will acquire the whole number.
As with any financial question, never hesitate to call your banker to verify something. If something seems fishy or too good to be true, it probably is. We're here to help.