You might have read or heard of people being scammed. Or you might know someone close to you who’s been scammed. But how about your aging parents?
Did you know that older individuals are oftentimes the primary targets of scams and frauds?
In this post, I want to share with you reasons why older adults are especially vulnerable to scams and three ways you can help your aging parents, so they don’t become victims themselves.
So Why So Scammers Target Older Adults?
Scammers think older folks have money – And, statistically this is true. An older person who’s worked his or her whole life and saved for retirement, should have a sizable nest egg. And this may not even include other retirement incomes such as social security or pension
Older folks are also more trusting – I know this to be definitely true of my parents. They grew up in a generation where keeping their doors unlocked and picking up phone calls from a random stranger was considered normal. I don’t know how many times I’ve my parents on the phone with a random stranger who was trying to solicit them
Less Likely to Report – Another reason scammers target older adults is that they are less likely to report if they’ve been scammed. Most oftentimes this is out of embarrassment or ignorance. I know if my parents were ever victims of a scam, I would be the last person they would tell out of embarrassment. Last thing they want is a lecture from their grown son about how to manage their lives.
So, How Can We Help?
These are three strategies that I’ve deployed with my parents.
1) Educate them about potential scams
Unsolicited Calls – I’ve told my parents that if they ever get a phone call from someone they don’t know asking for personal information (e.g. home address, email address, if they have life insurance), they should hang up right away.
They could be legit, but if they really needed to contact them about something, I’m sure they could do it via an official mail or an email.
Call from Someone Claiming to Represent the Government – Legitimate government agencies like the IRS, Social Security or Medicare doesn’t normally communicate by phone. They use official mail or email if you’ve subscribed to them.
If someone calls claiming to be with a government agency, there is a 99% chance it’s a scam. Tell your parents to check with manners at the door and hangup immediately!
In general, I’ve told my parents that if they don’t know why they are receiving a phone call, just hang up. If it’s important, they will contact them via other methods.
2) Help Your Parents Monitor Their Financial Accounts.
Setup Online Access – I was quickly able to set up online logins for my parents bank accounts so they could see their bank balance as well as transactions any time they wanted.
My mom even went as far as downloading the bank app so she can monitor it from her phone. Once they see how easy it is to see their bank account, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Password – Make sure your parents password isn’t ‘password123.’ A strong password is a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Also make sure they aren’t using the same password across different accounts. It may be hard to manage all the passwords, but it’s even more risky not to.
Setup Alerts – Have them setup alerts on their bank and credit cards accounts if there are suspicious activities (e.g. large purchase, out of norm location, etc.). These are pretty standard across all financial institution and you can help setup it up to go to their email or phone.
3) Help Them Monitor Their Credit Reports
Annual Credit Report – All consumers are entitled to one free copy of their credit report every year from each of the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You can get them at www.annualreport.com.
Credit Karma – Another good option is CreditKarma.com. I’ve helped both my parents and even my in-laws create accounts. They receive an email if there are any suspicious activities under their name. e.g. credit card they didn’t open, loan that they didn’t take out, etc.
Credit Freeze – If you want to take a step further, you can also help them put a credit freeze on their credit reports with all the bureaus. They’ll need to call or visit their website, but this single handedly prevents anyone from opening accounts in their name because lenders can’t open new accounts without a credit report.
This might be a good option if your parents have no need to open up a new account anytime soon.
No matter what we do, we can’t guarantee our parents won’t become victims of a scam, but I hope some of these strategies can lower the risk.
What do you think about some of these strategies. Do you think they could help your parents from being scammed?