Halloween isn’t the only time for tricks.
Scams are everywhere. It seems like every day, there’s a warning about a new scam. Scams have become a part of “normal” life – credit card scams, phone scams, email scams.
With scams being so widespread and reaching so many people, it is important to protect not only yourself, but your elderly loved ones, as well.
Elderly individuals can be particularly susceptible to scams. According to a recent Columbus Dispatch article, the federal government estimates that fraud costs seniors $2.9 billion annually.
Just yesterday, 10TV published a story about a so-called “grandparent scam.” The scammers call an elderly person and claim to be a grandchild. The “grandchild” needs bail money or money for some other danger. The grandparents, overwhelmed and panicked, want to help their grandchildren. The grandparent is caught off guard, so neither the sound of the voice nor the suspicious nature of the call matters.
Recently, the Columbus Dispatch also warned of a “health phone scam.” This scam involves fake calls that look like they originate from the Department of Health. The caller requests personal information that can lead to identity theft or other problems for the individual. With baby boomers and traditionalists needing more health care and medications as they age, they are prime victims for this type of scam.
The statistics regarding fraud and exploitation of seniors is likely underreported. Many times, people are embarrassed by the fact that they let their guard down or got taken advantage of. Elderly people may not admit to their spouse or children that they were a victim of a scam. Others may not realize that they were a victim at all.
If you have access to or oversight of an elderly person’s finances, keeping an eye on withdrawals or transfers out of their accounts is a good practice. Additionally, educating seniors and alerting them to these types of scams can prevent harm if they receive a phone call, letter, or visit from a wrongdoer.
In May 2017, Ohio Senate Bill 158 was introduced. The bill proposes to increase protection of the elderly, as well as to fine individuals committing the fraud. It would also require certain professionals, including CPAs, financial planners, real estate brokers, and bank employees, to report suspected exploitation or abuse to the department of job and family services. Current Ohio law has reporting requirements for individuals in the long-term care profession, but the bill expands the reporting to additional professionals. The Legislative Service Commission published a summary of the Bill, which you can access here.
The Ohio Attorney General website addresses of “common scams affecting the elderly” and the characteristics of each. The site has several publications that can help identify fraud and protect seniors from it.
The Ohio Attorney General has created also created a separate website, www.OhioProtects.org, specifically designed to report fraud. If you suspect you been a victim of a scam, report it through this website.
Your local Adult Protective Services may also have resources and support for elderly individuals who are victims of fraud or exploitation.
The FTC has good resources regarding what to do if your identity is stolen and other ways to help protect your identity.
Being afraid is not healthy for anyone, especially for seniors who may already experience confusion or forgetfulness. But being aware and equipping yourself with the proper information and resources could save you and your family a lot of headache – and money.