It’s a fact of life in the Animal Kingdom. Predators prey on the weakest members of the herd. Sadly, the same is true of human predators. The most vulnerable, including the elderly, are frequent targets of scammers and con men.
And, boy, do they take advantage of these folks. In 2015 alone, seniors lost $36 billion to rip-off artists.
Several factors can put seniors at risk. They are often not tech-savvy, which makes them, for example, less likely to recognize phony emails supposedly from their bank requesting personal and financial information. Many older Americans live alone and are relatively isolated, making them eager to engage, and eventually trust, anyone who seems interested enough to stay on the phone with them. When such interactions turn out to be costly frauds, seniors are often too embarrassed to tell anyone, especially family members or the police.
Check Out: 4 Ways To Stop Getting Automated Phone Calls
If you are concerned that an elderly relative or friend could fall victim to a scam, there are ways you can bodyguard them. Here are five steps to take right away:
1. Urge them to ignore the telephone. Get them a phone that allows you to program in the numbers of friends and family. Encourage the senior to not answer calls from numbers they don’t recognize. If a caller leaves a voice mail claiming to be with a bank or other financial outfit, tell your loved one not to return the call until they have verified the number by looking up the company online. If that’s too much for them, offer to screen such calls for them.
2. Help monitor their finances. If you have a close and trusting relationship with the senior, ask him or her to give you access to their financial accounts. Check these regularly for suspicious activity.
3. Track local scam activity. The Fraud Watch Network service from AARP issues email alerts on national and regional rip-off activity. This will allow you to give your loved one a heads-up on hustles and scams currently being perpetrated in your area.
4. Come up with a family code word. Why? Because one long-established elder-scam involves calling a senior and claiming to be a family member – usually a child or grandchild – who is in trouble and in need of money. You’d be surprised how often this shameful stunt works for the con man or woman. The family code word allows grandma to confirm that she really is talking to a family member.
5. Tell them to ignore salesmen. Con men routinely masquerade as door-to-door salesmen of legitimate products, especially home improvement services. The protection here is a closed front door. Your loved one won’t miss a thing by not answering the door, and they will avoid the risk of being scammed, or subjected to a high-pressure pitch for an over-priced product or service they don’t really need.