Financial scams targeting seniors succeed with alarming frequency, costing an estimated $3 billion in the US alone, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
These crimes often go unreported and with so much personal banking and business moving online, vulnerable adults face more potential scams now than ever before.
Lower your exposure to scams
Small changes to your browsing habits can lower your risk of exposure to fraud. Below are some good habits to develop.
- Investing in up-to-date anti-virus software (and remembering to keep it updated) costs far less than becoming the victim of an online scam.
- Do not click on suspicious links, especially on unfamiliar websites or in unsolicited email.
- Conduct business online at well-known sites. Adding bookmarks to trusted websites can avoid landing in unfamiliar pages with similar names to the URLs of sites you intend to visit regularly.
- Avoid pop-up ads. Most browsers have pop-up blockers. If a site begins throwing up pop-up ads despite your filters, close all windows of your browser immediately.
Lowering the number of unsolicited ads and offers you see every day means illegitimate offers will be much easier to detect, cut down on mail waste and save your mail carrier a good amount of sweat.
- Sign up for the Do Not Call Registry. The Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call Registry takes seconds to join and prevents most spam calls. Registration is free, but you will need to supply an email address and follow the confirmation link you receive to complete the process.
- Stop Junk Mail and Credit Card Offers. You can stop the flow of direct mail through the Direct Marketing Association’s consumer website. This process costs $2, but lasts for 10 years. [Note: because this links to a paid service, we are linking to the FTC website that verifies the veracity of this program.]
Pre-screened credit card offers can be stopped for five years by visiting com.
Prepare for possible fraud
Knowing your own financial situation and obligations can help you avoid fraud and minimize the fallout of fraudulent behavior.
- Know where your assets are. Have a physical record of where your money lives. This includes savings and debit accounts, active credit cards, stock and bond holdings, and any other store of value that may be targeted by fraud. Once a month, review your accounts and look for any unusual activity.
- List regular payments (to others and yourself). Many scams present themselves as bill collectors. Avoid this hazard by knowing A) what payments you need to make monthly (utilities, mortgage/rent, credit card bills, etc.) and B) what payments you receive monthly (pensions, social security benefits, etc.).
- Set up direct payment. Mail can’t be stolen if it’s not being sent. Setting up direct payment for incoming checks is a great way to get funds faster and avoid mail theft.
- Have a “panic sheet.” A panic sheet is a physical list of passwords, account names and phone numbers you might need to immediately cancel an account or change your login credentials, should one of your accounts be taken over by a scammer.
- Isolate an account. If someone struggles to identify and avoid frauds, consider making a small debit card account with a $200-$300 spending limit for daily purchases. This means that if they do fall victim, their primary accounts are not compromised.
Common-sense fraud prevention
Preparation to avoid fraud is important, but making good moment-to-moment decisions remains critical to avoiding fraud.
- Slow things down. Many frauds, especially phone-based schemes, depend on a false sense of urgency so the victim does not have time to question the proposition they receive. If you hear this is your “final warning” from someone you have never spoken with before, end the call.
- Ask for details. When receiving a suspicious contact by phone or online, ask for the person’s name, position, contact information and claimed organization. Either call the organization directly to ask about the individual, or search online to see if their information is correct.
- Withhold information. Do not give out your personal information, PIN, passwords or account numbers during any call you do not initiate or with an organization/person you have not verified.
- Look for similar scams. If you receive an unusual offer or demand by phone or email, take some time to search online for similar accounts. Most scams are used over and over and follow similar patterns. If a proposition sounds similar to what you find online, terminate the contact.
Always keep these tips in mind, but , hopefully, you’ll never need to use them. Our team of home health caregivers have helped New Yorkers remain independent in their long-time homes for more than 35 years. To learn how we can help you or a loved one, call SelectCare today or request a free in-home care guide.