According to different studies, fraud accounts for billions of dollars of losses
whether in the form of identity theft, credit card fraud or any of the other number scams that are out there. However, with worldwide life expectancy rising, and in turn, the growing number of senior citizens, there is an accompanying rapid growth in fraud aimed at this segment of the population. Seniors are targeted by phone, in person and online. This not only has a tremendous financial toll but also has an accompanying emotional impact as well.
So How Big Is Senior Fraud?
According to the Federal Trade Commission, there were nearly three million reported cases of senior fraud and abuse in 2018, up nearly one hundred times the number of cases from twenty years before. Many more cases are left unreported due, in part, to a sense of embarrassment on the part of a senior citizen having fallen victim to a scam, or worse, not knowing they fell for one. Further, estimates place the overall annual losses caused by this type of fraud in the billions of dollars with an individual average loss of $120,000 per senior targeted.
Senior fraud goes undetected for a number of reasons.
- First, seniors--especially the “baby boomers”--have a tremendous amount of wealth relative to the rest of the population. However, they are an exceedingly vulnerable group, often looking for a connection in the form of personal contact. Therefore, scammers know that they can prey on the emotions of unsuspecting, often lonely, seniors, using tactics that include playing on their sympathies and taking advantage of their fears.
- Second, seniors tend to lack experience when it comes to using newer forms of technology and conducting online transactions. This lack makes them a susceptible target, especially for Internet scams.
- Third, according to a study conducted by the National Association of Baby Boomer Women, there are actual physiological explanations that contribute to an increased risk of a senior citizen falling for a scam. As we age, the brain loses its ability to register suspicious situations and be conscious of them. This results in a confluence of circumstances that make senior citizens the perfect target for fraudsters attempting to steal their money, assets, and identities by taking advantage of their emotions, innocence, and isolation.
Senior Fraud Has Evolved Over the Years
Senior scamming can take many forms.
One of the main forms is a method of targeted automated phone calls selling all sorts of fake products in an attempt to elicit financial and credit card information.
A more refined scam includes impostors pretending to be family members in desperate need of money. Other arenas of senior fraud include telemarketers selling vacations and timeshare plans, one-time payments that unwittingly become subscriptions, foreign money scams, sales of counterfeit drugs and ineffective anti-aging products, IRS impersonators, sweepstakes, magazines, and even healthcare schemes or insurance scams, all of which, of course, are designed to strip the seniors of their financial assets.
10 Simple Ways to Protect Against Senior Fraud
While there is a growing number of government and private sector initiatives to prevent senior scams, there are steps that individuals can and should take to avoid their loved ones or themselves falling victim to these nasty attacks. Our health specialists at Walabot HOME recommend that seniors should:
- Refrain from answering the phone when an unfamiliar number appears on the caller ID screen.
- Set social media settings to accept only known contacts. In addition, messages sent to seniors on social media networks should only be opened if they are from a known sender.
- Never give out personal information over the phone or the Internet, especially social security numbers, bank information, and other financial details.
- Determine and designate a person to be a “trusted contact” who can be approached for a second opinion, in the face of suspicion of a potential scam or who can act as an overseer and monitor accounts for fraudulent activity.
- Never open pop-ups on a screen.
- Establish a small account at the bank for daily transactions. That way if a senior citizen falls victim to fraud, the scammers only have access to a small sum. Keep accounts with larger assets secure.
- Opt-out of mail and phone solicitations from companies or organizations from whom you don’t need to receive regular updates.
- Do identity and background checks on any employees and caregivers. Details can be provided by the institution or company that employs them.
- Shred all of one’s personal documents once they can be disposed of.
- Let the appropriate government agencies and private institutions know if a case of fraud has taken place. This could prevent this from happening again to someone else and help recover lost assets.
To Summarize: Senior Fraud Prevention Leads to Happier Golden Years
As always, prevention is the key to success. Seniors should stay aware, focused and alert in the face of those aiming to target them and their financial assets. For more information, advice, or assistance, contact our Walabot HOME experts at email@example.com.