In our country today, we worry about everything that might happen to us or our loved ones even if the odds are ten million to one. Why? If one bad thing happens anywhere, especially to children, we know about it within a few minutes to a few hours.
Another group that needs extra protection is our elderly. I am focused on financial safety here in the form of fraud. The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse, June, 2011, conducted by Virginia Tech’s Center for Gerontology estimated that such fraud had grown to at least $2.9B per year. Much of this is undoubtedly never reported to authorities. Rather than focus on how much occurs, let’s focus on the perpetrators, crimes, and methods so you can be better prepared to avoid it.
Unfortunately, one’s own family members often engage in abuse or fraud in obtaining money in older years. I have had clients who have given too much to children or grandchildren and become destitute later. Your younger relatives will not starve in our society and frankly, hard times stemming from stupid decisions can produce a wisdom that only consequences can.
I am not referring to unavoidable situations such as illness or accidents. But that is why we can buy insurance to protect ourselves when all is well, especially disability income protection.
Perhaps the greatest total value of fraud comes in the form of a telephone call or an email.
Seniors have half of the money in the US, they are available and are more likely to answer the phone than the rest of us. The US Subcommittee on Health and Long Term Care estimates that this 12 percent of our population represent 30 percent of scam victims.
One octogenarian who had known me since my birth called me out to check her European Lottery winnings and the deposit she needed to make in order to claim her prize. Ten seconds of research provided the truth. The incredible thing to me? She had already lost a sizeable amount to this sort of fraud in the recent past.
We all want to stay in our homes as independent as possible. I understand that, but we then need help to determine what and when repairs and maintenance need to be performed by reputable workers. In general, reputable companies do not need to canvas your neighborhood patching asphalt or trimming trees or the like. They take appointments and should be often booked up for days or weeks in advance. Check with the Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau, or your homeowner’s insurance agency before you call for a service. Do not be pressured into any decision.
The Retirement Industry Trust Association at www.ritaus.org/senior-fraud-initiative gives great help on this topic. It includes many regulatory websites for further information, and a long list of tips to protect yourself. Here are just a few of those.
- Sign up for the Do Not Call registry at 888-382-1222 from your phone number or online at donotcall.gov.
- Do not sign up for contests, sweepstakes, or free offers of anything.
- Never give out personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call to an enterprise you know.
- Never click a link in any email if you do not know and trust the sender.
- Never send money to help your supposed grandchild in trouble, but too embarrassed to call his parents.
If you would like a copy of this list but do not use the internet, call us and we will mail you a copy free of charge.
(Advice is intended to be general in nature.)