Protecting Older Adults Against Potential Scams

senior woman hands and writing on contract form 2023 12 28 21 00 56 utc

The Rise of Financial Fraud Targeting Older Adults

In recent years, the alarming rise in financial fraud targeting older adults has become a pressing concern. As the digital age advances, so too does the sophistication of scams, leaving older adults particularly vulnerable to financial exploitation. This surge is not only due to the increasing use of technology by older adults but also because of their perceived wealth and more limited understanding of modern digital threats.

The Federal Trade Commission's reports highlight a stark increase in older adult financial abuse, with losses amounting to hundreds of millions annually. This introduction sets the stage for a critical exploration of the landscape of financial fraud affecting older adults, underscoring the importance of vigilance, education and protective measures.

Key Trends in Financial Abuse

Financial fraud targeting older adults is a multifaceted issue, evolving with technology and the tactics of scammers. Recent trends show a shift towards more sophisticated schemes, such as romance scams, government impostor scams and online shopping frauds. These scams are not only more complex but also more deceptive, leveraging emotional manipulation and misinformation. 

Common Schemes Targeting Older Adults

The landscape of scams targeting older adults is both diverse and sophisticated, reflecting a range of tactics designed to exploit vulnerabilities. Here are some of the most prevalent scams that have significantly impacted older adults:

  • Email and Phishing Scams: Older adults receive seemingly official emails asking for personal information verification or updates, which fraudsters then use for illicit purposes.
  • Romance Scams: These scams involve perpetrators who craft false personas on dating platforms or social media to gain the trust of lonely older adults. By feigning romantic or emotional connections, these scammers eventually solicit financial aid for fabricated emergencies, leading to substantial financial losses for victims. In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission reported that older adults suffered $139 million in losses due to such scams, marking them as the most financially damaging.
  • Online Shopping Frauds: The shift towards digital shopping, accelerated by pandemic-induced isolation, has seen a spike in scams involving fake online stores or advertisements, where payments are taken without delivering the promised goods or providing substandard products. The FTC noted a 129% increase in such scams from 2019 to 2020.
  • Family Emergency (Grandparent) Scams: Scammers contact older adults pretending to be a grandchild or another family member in distress, urgently requesting money for emergencies.
  • Official Imposter Scams: Criminals posing as officials from trusted entities like the Social Security Administration, the IRS, or Medicare exploit older adults by threatening legal repercussions unless immediate payments are made. These impersonation tactics prey on the fear and respect older adults have for governmental authorities.
  • Other Impostor Scams: In some cases, individuals familiar to the older adult may offer assistance with daily tasks or errands, only to misuse this access to divert funds from the older adult’s accounts for personal use.

Why Older Adults Are at Increased Risk

older adults are often targeted by scammers due to a combination of perceived financial stability and potential vulnerabilities, such as isolation, cognitive decline or unfamiliarity with digital technology. Many older adults possess assets or savings, making them attractive targets for financial exploitation. Additionally, factors such as loneliness can make older adults more receptive to fraudulent overtures, while cognitive challenges may impair their ability to recognize scams. Understanding these vulnerabilities is crucial in developing effective strategies to protect older adults from financial fraud.

Recognizing the Warning Signs of Older Adult Fraud

Note: If you believe you shared financial information with someone suspicious, contact Ideal CU immediately.

The Senior Safe Act of 2018 was a significant legislative step towards protecting older adults, granting financial institutions the ability to report suspected financial abuse without breaching privacy concerns. Awareness of the following indicators can help in early identification and prevention of financial fraud against older adults:

  • Obtaining new credit cards.
  • The establishment of new joint accounts or the addition of unfamiliar co-signers to existing accounts.
  • Unexplained changes in credit card balances or the emergence of new credit lines.
  • An older adult going to the bank with new acquaintances.
  • Attempts to wire any amount of money to unknown recipients, or large amounts without very good reason.
  • An accumulation of unpaid bills or other clues of diverted financial resources.
  • Closing of long-standing savings vehicles like CDs without logical reasoning.
  • Writing checks to strangers without good and clear reasons.
  • Interruption in the regular delivery of bank and credit card statements to the older adult’s residence.
  • Financial transactions being conducted on behalf of the older adult without proper authorization or documentation.
  • Significant shifts in the older adult's lifestyle or financial habits.
  • Uncharacteristic and large withdrawals or transfers from accounts that are typically inactive.
  • Changes in legal documents such as power of attorney or wills under suspicious circumstances.

Protecting and Empowering Older Adults Against Potential Scams

Preventing financial fraud involves a multi-faceted approach that includes education, secure financial management practices, and the use of technology to monitor and alert for suspicious activities. older adults and their families can employ strategies such as setting up account alerts, using secure passwords, and regularly reviewing financial statements. Ideal CU works to build a trusted relationship with our clients to provide an additional layer of protection against scams be a reliable source of information and guidance.

Through education, support and the implementation of protective measures, we can create a safer environment for our older adult population. Encouraging open discussions about financial security, promoting awareness of scams, and fostering a supportive community are all vital steps in safeguarding older adults from financial exploitation. Ideal CU strives to guide our clients to their Ideal Life where they are adequately protected from financial fraud.

Stay Informed

When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.

Related Posts