Tips to Combat Elder Scams
The first step in fighting fraud is to raise awareness of scams — not only among older adults who might be targeted, but also among family members and professionals who work with seniors. (elder law attorneys, social services, financial advisors, doctors.) Also, anyone who routinely deals with seniors and money, like bank tellers who might spot a red flag if a senior suddenly makes a large withdrawal. Or, store clerks who might notice a senior purchasing a large number of gift cards (a top strategy crooks use to siphon a senior’s money undetected).
Family members can serve as a first line of defense.
Talk with your elderly parents. Remind them not to give out personal information over the phone. This makes it easy for thieves to gather information. Keep private with Social Security numbers, bank information or Medicare ID numbers. Also, remind them not to open the door to strangers.
Monitor credit card accounts and bank statements. Regularly check credit card and bank statements for suspicious or abnormal charges or withdrawals. Notify bank and/or credit card companies immediately of unauthorized activity.
Consider minimizing spending limits on credit cards and cancelling unneeded cards. Lower spending limits help lessen the potential damage an identity thief can cause. If a card is no longer being used, consider cancelling it; this helps prevent someone from using it without authorization.
Review credit reports. Federal law entitles consumers to one free copy of their credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) per year. Reviewing credit reports is an important way to see if someone is opening up accounts or applying for credit in your loved one’s name.
Add the person’s phone number to the federal government’s Do Not Call Registry. The Federal Trade Commission has a National “Do Not Call” Registry which can help reduce telemarketing phone calls and the chances that someone may be able to get your loved one’s personal information over the phone.
Report scams promptly. If your elderly parents become victims of identity theft or a consumer scam, report it immediately to your local law enforcement agency. You also may wish to contact your state’s Attorney General’s Office and your state’s consumer protection agency.
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John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions.
Phone: (781) 378-2164