Caring for a loved one is difficult enough, and it becomes even more trying when you’re forced to deal with the unfortunate phenomenon of elder fraud. As an aging adult’s brain health and mental health begin to depreciate, they can lose the ability to look out for themselves and therefore become more susceptible to people taking advantage of them.
Caregiver burnout is more likely to develop if you are unaware and unprepared to handle fraudulent activity. If your aging loved one realizes they’ve been ripped off, they may not admit it for fear that they may be judged or deemed incompetent. Luckily, there are many ways to prevent older adults from elder fraud.
Types of Elder Fraud
Older adults tend to have saved money up throughout their lives, or have excellent credit, which makes them attractive candidates for financial scams. All elder fraud schemes have one thing in common: trickery.
Often, con artists will pose as medicare or health insurance representatives. Since all adults over the age of 65 qualify for medicare, anyone in this age bracket is liable to be a victim of this type of fraud. Scammers will try to acquire personal information like a social security number, so they can sign up for medicare benefits and pocket the money themselves ¹.
Scammers may even try to take advantage of the older adult’s spouse after they pass away. They’ll scan the internet and local newspapers for obituaries and then contact the widow or widower with claims that the deceased has outstanding debts that the surviving family member must pay.
Telemarketing scams are probably the most common ways people try to con aging adults out of money. This tactic is used because those 65 and older grew up buying things on the phone instead of online, causing them to be familiar and comfortable with shopping via telephone. When a scammer accesses your loved one’s accounts, it’s important to place all of your accounts on alert immediately after.
Signs of Elder Fraud
Whenever an unfamiliar person asks for an aging adult’s personal information over the phone or online, that should send up a red flag. Keep in mind that anyone who would need that information either has it already or can obtain those details in person.
Con artists will often try to prey on aging adults with declining brain health by promising something for free, but will require shipping costs and the care receiver’s address. Tell your loved one to never give that information out over the phone and for them to let you know if anyone ever asks for it. Criminals will also try to add a sense of urgency so the elder adult won’t have time to think or tell their caregiver, which are known as “act now schemes” ².
Keep an eye out for anyone who comes in contact with an aging adult who unnecessarily engages with and draws out an interaction with them. This is a common strategy employed by scammers who aim to take advantage of those whose mental capabilities are on the decline.
How Caregivers Can Stop Elder Fraud
If you care for someone who is at risk for elder fraud, there are steps you can take, especially if you’re noticing signs that scams are becoming an issue, to ensure your aging parent is safe at home. Share the signs of a scam with your loved one. Tell them that just because there are malicious people out there trying to take advantage of them, that doesn’t mean they’re incompetent and it’s okay to seek help.
Only allow people you trust to be around an aging loved one, especially in regards to having access to that person’s personal information. Even if it’s a family member, always consider the intentions of anyone dealing with a person who is experiencing a decline in brain health.
Having access to the aging adult’s bank accounts and having records of which insurance agencies they use, in addition to medical histories, are will also help you stay on top of elder fraud.
Of all the tasks, emotions, time, and energy a caregiver puts into the well-being of an aging adult, the last thing they should have to worry about are scammers who are trying to take advantage of them. That being said, as long as a caregiver remains vigilant and watches out for the peculiar behavior of others, they are taking the necessary steps to prevent elder fraud.