Elder Abuse: How To Protect The Elderly From Financial Crimes

Apr 14, 2017 | Financial Planning | 0 comments

Once you or an elderly loved one falls victim to a scam, it’s easier to be ripped off a second time. The 6 steps you can take today to protect an aging parent from a financial scam.

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Elder financial abuse

You work hard all your life, saving for your future, and the minute you retire thieves are ready to steal your money. The National Council on Aging says financial scams are so common, they’re considered “the crime of the 21st century.”

Elder financial abuse is at least a $2.6 billion problem. Much of it is under-reported, so the financial loss is likely much higher.

There are all sorts of scams, and they’re constantly changing. Thieves target the elderly because they know they can get large sums of money quickly. It’s easy to earn the trust of an aging person.

Health issues also play into the vulnerability. Some older Americans are forgetful or beginning to suffer from dementia or memory loss. So, it makes the job of the con artist easier and makes it less likely they’ll get caught.

Elder abuse happens in person, on the phone, on the internet, and through the mail.

Most financial crimes against the elderly fall into the following categories:

  1. Medicare / health insurance scams
  2. Funeral and cemetery scams
  3. Internet fraud
  4. Investment schemes
  5. Mail fraud
    • Lottery & sweepstakes scams
  6. Reverse mortgage scams
  7. Telemarketing fraud
    • Grandparent scam
    • Charity

That’s why it’s important that you take care of your aging parent’s finances. There are so many ways they can lose their money to a financial scam.

Telemarketing fraud

Telemarketing fraud is one of the most common ways the elderly lose their money. The con artists sit in boiler rooms, often overseas, and call the elderly. The elderly phone scams often center on bogus or unscrupulous charities or fake appeals for help.

The Grandparent scam is one of the most popular ways elder abuse happens. Typically the thief convinces the grandparent that their grandchild is in jail or in the hospital and they need money for bail or medical bills.

The thieves use social media to gather names of grandchildren or other relatives to trick the elderly into giving money.

In most cases, the elderly person is told to wire money or provide their bank account information.

That’s why it’s important to monitor your aging parent’s bank accounts, so you can spot financial scams.


Telemarketing calls are sophisticated.

With technology, the thief may be calling from Nigeria, but the number on caller ID will show up as a local phone number. This is called spoofing.

Fake phone numbers are one more way thieves target the elderly and convince them to turn over their money.

Thieves may spoof a number if they’re pretending to be a relative or if they are calling about a bogus charity.

In this day and age, there really is no good way to know if a phone number is legitimate.

Mail scams

The elderly are also ripped off through the mail. Foreign lottery scams are illegal, but that doesn’t stop thieves from using them to gain access to your loved one’s bank account.

The lotteries in Australia and Canada are often the target. Letters are sent convincing the elderly person they won the lottery or have a chance of winning money. Most of these ripoffs start small and get bigger. The thief may ask for just a few dollars at first, and then ask for more.

Foreign lottery mailings are illegal and the United States Postal Service investigates these lottery scams that are sent through the mail. Call 1-877-876-2455 to report a financial crime involving the mail.

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Sucker lists

Here’s the problem. Once you fall victim to these scams, you’re an easy target for a second ripoff. Con artists create sucker lists. These are lists of people who are easy to rip off. Once your name is on the list, it’s hard to get off it. You only need to fall for one illegitimate offer, to have your name appear on a sucker list.

Here are ways keep your name off a sucker list, and to minimize the number of ways you can get ripped off. This includes removing your name from email lists, pre-approved offers, and deleting email so you hit Inbox zero. Most of the services are free.

Do Not Contact List for Caretakers

The Do Not Contact List for Caretakers helps families manage the solicitations their elderly loved ones receive. If you are caring for an aging parent or grandparent, you can have their name removed from commercial marketing lists.

The person’s name, address, and email address are placed on the DMA’s Mail and Email Preference Service lists.

The lists are updated every three months, so it may take some time for the offers to slow down. You can also do the email and mail lists individually as listed below.

Reduce junk mail

Sign up for the DMA Mail Preference Service to reduce unwanted catalogs and other direct marketing material. These lists are updated throughout the year, so it takes time to see a reduction in mail.

There is a fee of $2 to remove your information from marketing lists for ten years. The fee is $3 if you mail in the form.

Opt out of preapproved credit and insurance offers

Pre-approved credit card offers and insurance offers are dangerous if they fall into the wrong hands. Opt out of pre-approved offers by calling 1-888-5-OPT-OUT or you can submit your form online. It lasts for five years. To permanently opt out, you can sign up online and then print off the form and mail it in.

Get off commercial email lists

The Email Preference Service helps you remove your email address from commercial email lists.

You can also use software like Unroll.me, to go through your current email Inbox, and unsubscribe you from the number of email lists.

You can also do this on a per email basis, by clicking unsubscribe at the bottom of each email.

Deceased Do Not Contact List

The Deceased Do Not Contact List (DDNC) removes the names of loved ones who’ve died. It’s traumatic when an aging parent loses their lifelong partner. When they see the mail with their spouse’s name, it may make them emotional. It may also provide another avenue to rip off the surviving spouse.

Add phone numbers to the national Do Not Call list

You can still get phone calls even if your phone number is on the Do Not Call List, especially from unscrupulous people like robocallers who don’t abide by the law. However, it’s still a good idea to add your phone number to the Do Not Call List or verify that your phone number is listed.

Todd’s takeaway

While scams are a big problem for the elderly, the scary fact is it’s not always a stranger who rips them off. According to the National Council on Aging, over 90% of elder financial abuse is committed by family members.

That’s why you need to be proactive if you have an aging parent or relative. Make sure you secure their finances before someone else signs away their legal rights. Protect the people you love most.

If you need help with elder abuse, call the National Center on Elder Abuse or the National Adult Protective Services Association.

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