I recently read a story about an elderly gentleman who was talking with a woman over email. She had told him that she needed money to feed her daughter and herself. By the time the man’s daughter was able to get involved, the man had given over $700,000 to this woman – almost his whole life savings. With multiple incidences like this one, millions of dollars are being extorted from our elderly every year, and it seems that number is continuing to rise. How can we help our loved ones who may not be tech-savvy or keen to these fraudsters? Let’s start by discussing some of the ways that fraud can occur and how we can help prevent our loved ones from falling victim to such scams.
Utilize online access
Some people are afraid to have online access to their bank accounts and credit cards out of fear that someone will hack into his or her accounts. However, with online access, the activity can be checked every day or week which would be better than waiting until the statements come. By that time, the fraudulent charge could be over a month old.
If you are going through your accounts on your own, you must go through your credit card and bank statements with a “fine tooth comb.” I have found some non-profits who continue to auto deduct donations from a credit card after several phone calls asking them to stop.
If something looks funny on your credit card or bank statement, make an inquiry. Most times there is a phone number associated with a merchant charge on the credit card statement. If there isn’t, call the credit card company.
Ask for help
For anyone who has cognitive issues or trouble seeing, it’s best to have help handling finances. Additionally, people may forget to pay bills and may have difficulty with or become overwhelmed by the paperwork associated with managing bank and credit accounts, especially when age is a factor. Not being able to completely focus on bills can make anyone more vulnerable to scammers. Employing a daily money manager will ensure that nobody takes advantage of your loved ones. If you aren’t sure exactly what a daily money manager does, you can learn more here.
Don’t fall for the IRS scam
According to the IRS thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to the tax scams that are currently circulating. The scammers are using the US Post Office, telephone and email to pull off the number one scam in the country. Please note that the IRS does not contact anyone via email, text or social media channels. They will never request your personal information. The IRS, on rare occasion, will reach out via telephone or by a personal visit to your home. You will always be able to tell if it indeed is the IRS by referring to this fact sheet.
Freeze your credit
If you are no longer using credit, it is an excellent idea to freeze your credit. Then you can rest assured your credit will remain in good standing. According to Experian, as of September 2018, placing a freeze on your credit report is now free in the United States. Each reporting agency has a web page. There you can request security freezes and fraud alerts, You can also send your request by mail. Just remember that if you wish to lift the freeze, you will need to do so before applying for credit.
The bottom line is to stay on top of the bank and credit card statements. Regularly check for inconsistency or error. Stay educated on the current scams and have conversations with our loved ones about what’s happening. Together we can build a barrier between our finances and these scammers. Our loved ones have worked too hard to lose their life savings to fraud.