Houston families know that protecting their senior loved ones calls for special attention to hidden dangers. One such danger, financial elder abuse is on the rise and is expected to continue its climb as the United States economy continues its shaky course. A recent study from MetLife Mature Market Institute states, “Older Americans are losing $2.9 billion annually to elder financial abuse, a 12 percent increase from the $2.6 billion estimated in 2008”, according to The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse: Crimes of Occasion, Desperation, and Predation against America’s Elders.
Additionally, this research found:
- Women are more likely than men to be financial abuse victims
- In about 60 percent of the cases, the perpetrators are males
- Seniors tend to be particularly vulnerable to abuse during the holiday season.
Typically, strangers target victims who are out shopping, driving or managing financial affairs. The perpetrators look for flags of vulnerability such as handicap tags on cars, walking canes or a display of confusion. Once a scam is discovered, seniors are more likely to NOT report that they have been duped out of fear or embarrassment. This failure to report the crime allows criminals to carry on their scams without discovery!
Sadly, a senior isn’t always safe in their own home. A senior’s telephone can become a gateway for fraudulent telemarketers in common scams such as:
- Sweepstakes awards – A caller will notify the senior that they have won a huge sweepstakes prize but a handling fee or sales tax must be paid in order to claim the prize.
- Promise of money from the government – The Better Business Bureau reports that a scam from callers claiming to be from the United States Government Grant Department will award large sums of money in exchange for bank information, routing numbers and bank account numbers.
- Mortgage audit scam – This phone scam targets home owners who may be at risk for foreclosure. Typically, the scam offers huge refunds due to bank error. Red warning flags in this scam are that the caller asks for an upfront fee and counsels the home owner to stop talking to their loan lender. The Federal Trade Commission has issued consumer warnings about the practice of forensic mortgage audits.
- Family member in trouble – During times of peak travel such as holidays and school breaks, a caller will pretend to be a traveling family member who has run into trouble such as becoming a pickpocket victim or a college-age grandchild needing bail money. The caller will need money wired very quickly so that they can return home or avoid jail. The caller will fish for information in order to dupe the scam victim into revealing a family member’s name for use in the scam. Or, the caller will act offended when a suspicious grandparent questions their validity of the call.
Some tips on avoiding phone-related scams and identification theft:
- Never volunteer personal information such as date of birth or social security numbers over the phone.
- Never volunteer family information, such as relatives’ names.
- Hang up immediately if uncomfortable with the phone call and the content.
- Never give payment in advance for a product, service or award.
- Utilize caller I.D. and answering machines to screen calls.
- Before wiring or transferring money to a troubled family member, make a quick phone call to determine if the emergency is legitimate.
- Remember that your bank or credit card company has your account information. They will not be calling you for this information or to confirm confidential data. Do not reveal this information during an unsolicited phone call.
- Contact the National Do Not Call Registry at 1-888-382-1222 to have a phone number removed from call lists.
- For additional information about common scams, contact the Better Business Bureau Silver Sleuth’s in Houston.
- “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true!”
If you have a helpful tip on avoiding scams and fraud, please share your information with our readers.
We hope this was helpful. If you have any questions or if you know of a senior that could benefit from our vast array of home care services in Houston, please call us at 832 379-4700 or email us. We accept most long term care insurance as payment and have a full time staff supervising more than 100 quality-trained home care personnel covering the Houston, Texas area.