Avoiding Financial Scams
One of the saddest realities facing us in today’s world is that many senior citizens are unfortunately vulnerable to financial scams. According to a Bloomberg report, the elderly demographic in the United States collectively loses $37 billion annually as a result of scams. Scammers often prey on the elderly due to their vulnerability and frequent lack of understanding of technology and modern methods of things like bill collection, sweepstakes, or criminal justice. The ways that scammers approach the elderly to separate them from their money are almost too numerous to count, using tactics like posing as telemarketers to tell them they’ve won prizes that they need to send financial information or money to collect, fake insurance companies, or even members of their own families. Many seniors often have difficulty protecting themselves from these scams, as oftentimes they have trouble determining if someone is legitimate or merely trying to get their money.
The term “age-associated financial vulnerability” was coined to define the unwise decisions that many seniors tend to make, which puts them at risk for financial losses that may alter their quality of life. Even if your loved one was, in their youth, financially savvy, the aging process may have caused their financial judgment to dwindle before their everyday judgment does. So even if their day to day decision making skills are strong and sound, their ability to make wise and prudent financial decisions may be compromised. Since many seniors live on fixed incomes and retirement savings, financial security is incredibly important, so the onus is on family and loved ones to look out for them to ensure they do not become vulnerable.
One of the most common scams that targets seniors is Medicare or other health insurance scams. Since every US citizen over the age of 65 qualifies for Medicare, oftentimes scammers will pose as Medicare officials to go after them and try to get their money or information for a fake insurance plan. Sometimes they’ll go door to door and talk to seniors directly, or place phone calls, or even send out emails, so it’s important to be vigilant and wary of all the different avenues these threats can approach from. If your loved one is asked to share their Social Security number, send a payment or pay a specific fee, or anything that seems potentially suspicious or off, they may be the target of a scam. To ensure their safety, make sure to thoroughly research and investigate any new health plans offered beforehand. You can also always call the Medicare office directly to ask about anything that seems off to you.
Seniors are also frequently targeted by scams surrounding their homes. Whether it's a mortgage scam, or shady contractors who overcharge for work and underdeliver or perform unnecessary repairs. Scammers often offer property assessments to determine the value of a home, but will only conduct the assessment after a fee is paid. Then, of course, no assessment takes place. Or contractors will insist that critical repairs need to be made, counting on the implicit trust from their targets, and repair something that was working fine before while also increasing the bill knowing it will probably go unnoticed.