Media contact: Janet C. Hart, APR, CFEE (704) 927-8617 office
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The Better Business Bureau is using this occasion to educate older adults, adult children, and caregivers about the types of scams that target older adults and the warning signs of financial elder abuse.
Older adults are specifically preyed on by con artists via emails, telemarketing and door-to-door sales, because they are more trusting, less computer savvy about internet scams, and less likely to hang up on telemarketers or say ‘no’ to giving to ‘good causes’.
The BBB receives hundreds of calls each year from older adults about scams that involve bereavement, Medicare, investments, donations, door-to-door sales, travel deals, work at home jobs and prizes.
“Many victims do not realize they have been taken,” said BBB President Tom Bartholomy. “If they do know they have been scammed, they may not want to tell anyone because they are embarrassed or they fear they will lose their independence.”
If you are an older adult, the BBB has eight tips for how you can avoid being scammed:
- Use direct deposit for your Social Security check.
- Never wire money to someone you don’t know for any reason.
- Never give your credit card or bank account numbers to anyone who calls you or emails you, even if the person claims to be from your bank, the IRS, or the police.
- Do not click on links in emails, even if the email states that there is a problem with your bank account or credit cards.
- Discuss requests for money or donations with other family members before giving.
- Review your bank and credit card statements for any transactions that you did not authorize.
- Do not be pressured into making a donation until you have researched the charity and then, give directly to the charity of your choice.
- Check your credit reports with all three credit bureaus on a regular basis to watch out for any unauthorized accounts opened in your name. You can get a free copy of your credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com.
Although older adults are vulnerable to scams, they are more likely to become a victim of a financial crime. Financial elder abuse occurs when an older adult’s bank accounts or credit cards are accessed and exploited by another person.
“What makes this type of crime shocking,” said Bartholomy, “is that in most cases, the abuser is someone whom the older adult knows and trusts, such as a family member, caregiver, neighbor or friend.”
According to the BBB, financial elder abuse can be difficult to identify.
If you are a family member, friend or caregiver, the BBB has nine red flags of financial elder abuse:
- Missing possessions or property
- Unusual bank account activity
- Numerous unpaid bills or bounced checks
- Complaints about not being able to afford usual purchases
- New people involved in their financial affairs
- Unnecessary purchases (often big-ticket items)
- Sudden changes to their Power of Attorney or will
- Sudden interest in an investment or business opportunity
- Claims they have won a prize, lottery or vacation
If you have been a victim of elder abuse, or someone you know may be at risk of becoming a victim, you should contact your local law enforcement agency.