By Janet Howard
From romance schemes and catfishing to scary calls supposedly from the IRS, older men and women are often the targets of scams. These scams and scheme, collectively known as elder fraud, taken many forms, but the financial devastation they leave behind is much the same. If you have elderly loved ones, they could be at risk of elder fraud. Worse yet, you may not know the scam has happened, and by then it is probably too late for them to recover. Recognizing these five signs of elder fraud could help you ride to the rescue before it is too late.
1. A new romance, with no signs of the romantic partner
Romance scams are common among the elderly, and those scams often arise online. If your mom or dad has a new romantic partner they have never actually met, it may be time to step in with some timely advice.
2. New people in their lives
Meeting new people and being social can keep older people young, but sometimes those new acquaintances have nefarious motives. Stay alert to the new people in your parents’ and grandparents’ lives; meet them when possible, talk to them and trust your gut instincts. If something seems wrong, it probably is.
3. Changes in behavior
Older people who are victims of financial fraud may exhibit a range of new behaviors, from isolating themselves from friends and relatives to lashing out in unexpected ways. If you notice any changes in behavior, it is time to find out what is going on.
4. Unpaid bills
If you see a pile of unpaid bills and late payment notices when you visit your parents or grandparents, elder fraud could be to blame. Victims of elder fraud may withdraw large sums of money to loan their new “friends,” leaving them without the cash they need to live their lives.
5. Raiding investment accounts
If previously dormant investment accounts are now being raided for ready cash, you need to start asking some questions. The perpetrators of elder fraud often encourage their victims to dip into their retirement accounts, close certificates of deposit and make other unwise financial transactions. Whether you suspect elder fraud or not, there are steps you can take to protect your loved ones and keep them from harm. If you have not already done so, registering your parents’ and grandparents’ phone numbers with the Do Not Call registry is a good place to start.
You can also serve as tech support for their smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices, installing regular software updates, making sure strong antivirus software is running and keeping alert for security breaches and the release of personal information. By taking a proactive approach to protection and security, you can reduce the risk of elder fraud and help your loved ones live better and more secure lives.