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8 Ways To Protect Your Loved One From Elder Fraud

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The statistics on fraud and older adults are staggering. Did you know that more than 3.5 million older Americans are victims of fraud per year? In addition, older adults, when scammed, are scammed out of more money than younger adults. 

The truth is, falling victim to a scam is not uncommon, so it’s crucial that you do all you can to help protect your loved one

Fraud doesn’t come in one shape or size. Fraudsters can use a variety of guises to acquire money or steal identities from their victims

Fraudsters may scam their victims by: 

 

  • Posing as professionals
    Some fraudsters scam their victims by pretending to be professionals in a variety of fields; carpenters, senior helpers, housekeepers, financial advisors, and more. 


  • Sending mail-in advertisements
    Some companies will spam their potential victims with advertisements for products - especially “health” products- that have no benefits. 


  • Performing phone scams
    Phone scams are perhaps the most common type of scam. Phone scammers will call victims pretending to be Medicare, the IRS, government agencies, or financial institutions, to solicit sensitive information.


  • Sending viruses or soliciting information
    Some fraudsters use the internet to send viruses or solicit information - often under the guise of romance scams. They may also use phishing emails to collect sensitive information

  • "Ghosting"
    Ghosting involves stealing one's identity after one passes away.

 

What Are 8 Ways To Protect Your Loved One From Fraudsters?

While scams seem to be everywhere, there are ways to guard yourself and your loved one from fraudsters. Implementing as many of these steps as possible will decrease your chances of being impacted by fraud. 

 

1. Educate Yourself & Your Loved One

The first step to protecting your loved one is to educate yourself. Understand what the red flags of scams are:

    • Phone requests for verification of sensitive information such as social security numbers and bank account information. 
    • Requests for money in the form of cash, wire transfers, or gift cards. 
    • The scammer wants to keep the interaction quiet

Pass this information along to your loved one, as you feel is helpful.

 

2. Stay Up-To-Date On Recent Scams

Staying up-to-date on recent scams can give you hints on what to look for if your loved one experiences unusual behavior.

The Federal Trade Commission website keeps a list of recent, frequent scams. AARP also offers updates on recent scams.

 

3. Have Open Conversations With Your Loved One

 

Plan a time to broach the topic with your loved one. 

Choose a time when you can dedicate time to answer their questions and figure out when's a good time for them. Often, it can be helpful to group this conversation into a discussion about long-term plans and legal plans. 

    • Have the conversation with respect and dignity. (Asking for permission to help monitor their finances may be difficult for your loved one.)
    • Talk about the red flags of scams.
    • Provide reassurance that if they do feel they fell victim to a scam, to immediately let you know.

4. Monitor Their Finances

If your loved one is willing to share their financial account information with you, many banks offer mobile apps that can allow you to frequently, yet quickly, ensure nothing unusual is happening in the account. 

Additionally, apps generally allow you to set up notifications when any unusual activity is spotted.

    • As a tip, check your loved one's Credit Reports.
      • Request free copies of your loved one’s credit report to ensure everything looks as it should. 
    • You can do this from credit bureaus like Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.
      • This will allow you to ensure there are no new accounts that you are not aware of or other suspicious activity.

5. Secure Their Financial Documentation

Secure any financial documentation to protect it if someone were to be doing work in the home. 

Protect any sensitive information such as driver’s licenses, bank statements, credit card numbers, and personal health information including date of birth, and tax returns. Consider placing these documents in a safe, but make sure the key stays easily accessible. 

All this information could be used by identity thieves. In the event that something malicious does happen, having an updated Power of Attorney will come in handy to help your loved one untangle the impact of the scam.  

 

6. Monitor Their Mail

If your loved one is prone to replying to everything in the mail, talk to the post office about setting up a Post Office box. This will allow you to sort the mail before passing it on.

Send potentially harmful mail back with “Do Not Contact” written on the envelope or card.

 

7. Secure Their Technology

On the computer, ensure that your loved one has strong passwords on all online accounts whether it is bank websites or social media accounts. 

Keep a paper list of these passwords in a safe place in the event that you need to access the accounts.

    • Consider a call-blocking device to set up on your loved one’s phone to reduce the number of scam calls coming through.  
    • Monitor their social media accounts for unusual activities such as “friends” or connections that you do not recognize from real life.
    • On social media, be wary of viral posts that ask for information that is seemingly harmless such as where you grew up, pet’s names, and spouse information. 
      • Monitor your loved one’s profiles for posts like these. These may be some ways they are inadvertently posting or submitting identity-related information.

 

How To Protect Your Loved One After Death?


Unfortunately, deceased people may still be at risk of identity fraud, otherwise known as “ghosting”. 

According to AARP, fraudsters may peruse obituaries and target individuals who have recently passed. AARP also shares that it can take nearly six months for all credit and financial institutions and the Social Security Administration to close accounts. 

You can protect your loved one by quickly mailing a copy of their death certificate to major credit institutions. Additionally, when writing your loved one’s obituary do not include personal information. Continue to monitor your loved one’s credit reports after they pass away and keep an eye out for new credit or accounts.

If your deceased loved one has been a victim of identity theft it can make it difficult to close accounts and their estate, so taking precautions is beneficial.

 

What Could Happen After Falling Victim to a Scam?

 

Statistics show that individuals who have fallen victim to a scam are more likely to fall victim to another. 

If you learn that your loved one has been scammed, be sure to report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission. 

Some people who have been scammed may find it difficult or embarrassing to talk about, but it’s true that it can happen to anyone. Reporting the scam is the best way to protect yourself and others from being targeted in the future.

Laurel McLaughlin

Laurel McLaughlin has over a decade worth of experience in various sectors of the elder care field- home care, senior living, and non-profits. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is a certified dementia practitioner.

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