Recognize Swindlers at First Contact
Scammers often pose as public servants, distant relatives, non-profit organizations, or representatives from familiar companies when approaching their targets. Verify who you are speaking with before sending someone money or communicating your personal information, especially if the unexpected request originates from text messages, phone calls, or emails.
Never Send Money to Strangers
Fraudsters likewise pretend to be people in despair or loved ones who require help. These thieves will create fake websites or phony profiles on social media with the intent to deceive honest people into sending them money. Don’t be a victim—never send cash to someone you haven’t personally met.
Beware of Caller ID
Crooks often use hi-tech gadgets to send fake phone numbers to caller ID equipment; this means the number that pops up on your cell phone may not be real! Hang up on people who ask you for money or personal information over the phone, even if you recognize the number—you can always call the person back if you believe the request is legit.
Google Bizarre Money Requests
Discovering if strange money requests are genuine is easy in today’s internet society. Launch your favorite search engine and type in the business name, product name, or name of the person soliciting the cash. Next, include words like “scam,” “fraud,” or “fake,” and watch what happens. You may also Google unusual incidents such as “fake free iPod text” or perform phone number searches to learn if others fell victim to similar scams.
Use Credit Cards and Never Wire Cash
Banks protect credit card purchases from fraud, and they can reverse charges for customers who were victimized. Other payment methods, however, hold no fraud protection; for instance, cash transactions via Western Union wires or MoneyGram vouchers are irreversible once the receiver withdraws the electronic funds.
Get Advice Before Sending Cash
Always talk to a trusted friend, family member, or a financial adviser before you surrender cash or give someone your personal information if you believe an offer is too good to be true. Thieves get paid when fraud victims make hasty decisions under pressure. Take it easy, investigate the offer, do online searches and talk to someone. If the offer is legitimate, it will be there tomorrow for you to accept.
Never Prepay for a Promised Good or Service
Fraudsters often demand their victims pay in advance for services like home repair, credit repair, low-interest loan offers, or job placement assistance. Scammers may even claim that you must pay a small fee or pre-pay taxes to collect prizes you’ve won—don’t do it; chances are you’ll never see this money again.
Scrutinize Free Trial Periods
Companies are in business to make money and not to hand out free products or services. Beware of free trial periods that give you something free for a month, then bill you every month afterward until you cancel. Examine free trial offers carefully and study the fine print that memorializes the cancellation rules. You should further review your billing statements for unauthorized charges after accepting a free trial offer.
Designate a “Trusted Contact” to Monitor Bank and Broker Accounts
Sadly, friends or family of victims commit ninety percent of financial fraud incidents in the US. You can lessen this risk by assigning a bank or brokerage account “trusted contact” (trusted relative or friend) to act on your behalf whenever financial institutions suspect fraud on your account — doing so will give you a pair of second eyes for monitoring fraud activity.
Never Send Money After Depositing Unfamiliar Checks
Bank checks often take weeks to clear and even more time if they’re drawn from overseas financial institutions. American banks may advance you the funds on deposited checks within days, but that does not mean the bank draft isn’t fake—you are legally responsible for repaying the bank when checks bounce, so never wire money back to people who send you suspicious bank drafts.
Remain Socially Active
Isolation is one thing that can contribute to a senior’s financial vulnerability, as being cut off from the outside world can make it more difficult for others to detect warning signs. An isolated individual may also feel that they lack the resources and relationships they need to feel financially secure. One of the best safeguards against financial elder abuse is to create a strong support system.
Avoid Joint Bank Accounts
Some seniors might open a joint bank account so that a family member can more easily make payments or withdrawals on their behalf and help manage their finances. But a joint bank account can also serve as an easy way for theft and abuse to occur.
Don’t Give Up Your Home
Particularly when moving into an assisted living facility, an older adult might consider signing over their home to a trusted family member in order to let that person handle the selling of the home. A home can be among a senior’s most valuable assets, however, and it may not be a safe idea to sign the home over to another person, no matter how trustworthy they might be.
Invoke a Power of Attorney
The risk of financial abuse heightens after a person develops a decreased capacity to make independent financial decisions. Invoking a power of attorney can be one proactive way to prepare for the future of one’s wealth and assets. Seniors can consider getting legal advice to help in this process.
Set Up a Revocable Trust
Placing a senior’s assets in a revocable living trust and naming a fiduciary can be one way to protect against outsiders getting access to any of the senior’s assets that are of significant value.