Older Adults in Fairfax Can Be Protected from Fraud

April 28, 2011

Scam artists take advantage of the fact that older adults are often more trusting than younger people and are more likely to reveal personal information about both themselves and their family members in casual conversation. Crooks recognize that many elderly tend to feel embarrassed when defrauded, as if they should have recognized the scam and will therefore avoid reporting the incident to authorities or family members.

So how can you as a caregiver prevent your family members from becoming easy prey to such criminals? Here are a few simple steps you can take.

Be in the Know

Make sure that you’re aware of common schemes that defrauders use on the elderly. If you are alert to such scams, you can warn your loved ones, and look out for potential thieves yourself. Frequently used gimmicks include the following:

  • Telemarketing scams. A scam artist may call either advertising a non-existent product or inviting the elderly individual to participate in a survey. The elderly person will then be asked to provide a credit card number so that a purchase can be completed or or an account can be credited.
  • The grandparent scam. A thief may call, posing as a grandchild who is in some sort of emergency situation – perhaps in jail, or stranded abroad –and will ask for money to be wired immediately. Usually the thief begs the grandparent not to reveal the situation to other family members, claiming that he or she will get in trouble.
  • The foreign lottery scam. Your loved one may receive an email or a letter requesting that he or she send personal information and funds in order to receive a large prize. Crooks then possess not only the money sent, but also information that can be used for identity theft.
  • The rent-to-own contract scheme. Elderly individuals may be offered what may at first seem like an incredible rent-to-own deal, but may not read the fine print which states that if they miss a payment or are even a little bit late, they agree to forfeit both the property and the money paid to date.
  • The home repair scam. This scam can come in a number of forms, ranging from handymen who come into the area for a day, charge exorbitant fees, and disappear after doing little to no work, to criminals who gain entrance to the home by posing as professionals from an electric or gas company, and then burgle the house.

These are just a few of the schemes commonly used by criminals who prey on the elderly,and clever crooks are inventing new ones every day. Staying aware of the latest schemes can help you to continue to protect your loved ones.

Be on the Lookout

Warn your loved ones against giving out too much information to strangers, especially those who call or email unsolicited. Recommend that they request an ID from anyone who comes to the house to perform a service so that they do not unwittingly invite unsavory characters into the home. Remind them that if they would like to donate to a charity, they can contact the Better Business Bureau to make sure that the organization is legitimate. Often, a healthy dose of skepticism can go a long way toward fending off scam artists.

If a family member does become a victim of  fraud, encourage him/her to report the matter to the authorities as soon as possible so that others are not similarly taken advantage of. Assure that individual that anyone, regardless of age, can be taken in by criminal schemes and that there is no need for embarrassment.

Have any comments? As always, please share them with us below or on our Caregiver Forum.

Alisa Meredith, Writer

Guest writer Alisa Meredith is a blogger and social media professional with Scalable Social Media. Every once in a while, someone at Home Instead does something that compels her to stop Tweeting and write something real! This is one of those times.

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