Elder fraud is a growing problem in the United States. You may feel that you aren’t at risk or that only the vulnerable become targets, but in August of 2017, the American Journal of Public Health published a report stating that in a year, 1 in 18 “cognitively intact” older Americans is the victim of abuse, financial scams, or fraud.
It’s always difficult to admit that you may be vulnerable or targeted by scammers, but without the acknowledgement, it’s hard to adequately protect yourself from potential fraud. Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself from elder fraud.
Elder Fraud Protection Tips
Often financial scams surface in the form of telephone calls. If someone you don’t know, with a number you don’t recognize is calling and telling you that you’ve won a contest you weren’t aware of entering and is requesting personal as well as financial information, you are probably fairly suspicious and know to just hang up. Unfortunately over time, scammers have developed more advanced methods to get you to unknowingly give your information. One of these advanced scams involves soliciting money for fake charities. This frequently happens after natural disasters.
When it comes to giving personal information over the phone, it’s best to err on the side of caution and not release sensitive information. If you’re unsure whether the call is legitimate or not, you can always ask the caller if this is the number you can call them back on, and do a little research on whether or not to call them back. That way if it really is your doctor’s office calling to make your annual appointment, you’ll know that for sure and be able to give them your name and birthdate comfortably.
Of course with the advancement on technology, elder fraud is easily perpetuated through the internet. This can happen either through pop-ups in your browser claiming you’ve won money, but only if you act quickly. This pressure to act immediately is always a red flag. As AARP’s ElderWatch site states, “If the offer is legitimate, it will still be there tomorrow.” Emails are also a way scammers target people. They will generate email accounts to look like they’re coming from your bank. If you receive any email that asks for your bank account number, credit or debit card number, and/or pin numbers, do not respond and call your bank instead.
Protecting Against Elder Fraud by Family Members
Unfortunately, strangers over the phone or the internet aren’t the only people who may attempt to take advantage of you. For years after retirement, you may feel comfortable managing your personal and financial decisions. This can work very well until you reach a certain age or something happens where you can no longer make those decisions, and family members or close friends may take advantage of your sudden vulnerability. The best way to protect yourself from this very personal type of fraud is to put a plan, a legally binding plan, into place.
While estate planning and wills might come to mind, and are of course important when it comes to protecting a family after a loved one’s passing, durable power of attorney for healthcare as well as guardianship are things every person in their golden years should consider. If you become vulnerable over time or suddenly having a legally binding plan prevents your accounts from being drained or decisions being made about your life by someone who doesn’t have your best interests in mind.
Being aware of the frequency and possibility of elder fraud is the first step in protecting yourself. Knowing how to avoid potential phone and internet scams is helpful, but legally planning for the future is the best way to avoid the most personal kinds of elder fraud.
Elder Fraud Lawyer Vancouver, WA
To learn more about elder fraud and how to protect you and your family’s future, call Northwest Legal Advocates. We specialize in elder law and are ready guide you through that legal process, making it easier for you to focus on living your life.