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Protecting elderly relatives from financial scammers

Protecting elderly relatives from financial scammers

by Elizabeth Hunt, Partner

An elderly relative gets a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild. He’s in trouble. He’s been arrested and needs bail money – and please, can they help without alerting his parents, who would only offer criticism for his poor choices.

It’s a scenario that’s not uncommon and, unfortunately, is an all too likely trap for elderly relatives to fall into. According to the True Link Report on Elder Financial Abuse 2015, the total annual losses from elder financial abuse across the U.S. are as much as $36.5 Billion – not to mention the emotional and physical tolls these scams take on seniors and their families.

It can be challenging to broach the subject with elderly relatives, who may feel uncomfortable admitting their vulnerability, but it’s best to make sure aging loved ones are aware of potential threats before they arise.

There are a few simple steps you can take to safeguard relatives against scammers that may be targeting them:

Read up on scams that are in play. The True Link Report includes a number of common examples. Keep an eye on local news reports to stay in the loop about current scams that may be targeting people in your area. Make sure you’re able to easily identify threats if a loved one reaches out for help.

Consider how vulnerable your loved one might be. It can be challenging for elderly relatives to admit that they might be at risk, but take into account a few common factors that may increase their risk of being targeted. These include things like cognitive conditions or poor memory, friendliness, financial sophistication, or the amount of telemarketing calls they receive.

Start the conversation. Using common or current examples is a great way to break the ice with loved ones and ask the all important “What would you do if this happened to you?” Familiarizing relatives with some of the common themes used in these scams can prepare them to react if they become targets.

Set the stage for turning down scammers. If the idea of disagreeing with or flat out hanging up on a stranger on the phone seems intimidating, set up a phone-side note that can act as a script or simple reminder that it’s ok to let a caller know you don’t handle this sort of business over the phone.

Limit the chances for making contact. With today’s technology, it’s easy to set up Caller ID on home and mobile phones so that loved ones can easily decide not to answer calls from unknown numbers.

While it may be difficult to get the conversation started, initiating an open dialogue surrounding these types of financial risks can provide your loved ones greater security as they age.