Help Mom and Dad avoid becoming fraud victims

Elderly-couple-smiling-w-borderThink about giving your parents a gift that will be useful long after Mother’s Day and Father’s Day celebrations have passed–one that can help ensure their future economic security. Speak with them about how to protect themselves from a far-too-common occurrence–
financial fraud targeted at seniors.

The unfortunate reality is that for various reasons, people over age 65 are especially vulnerable to financial crimes–most often committed by trusted relatives, and ironically, by their own children.

A 2014 study by researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College found that almost 5% of seniors admit they’ve already been victims of embezzlement. Some have given or lent money to others under false pretenses. Victims also are defrauded by means of forgery, falsification of records, and coercion.

One common example of this type of financial crime is getting older relatives to sign over their homes, or cash in their investments and put the proceeds into a checking account–an account to which the fraudster has access.

How to help your parents protect their homes and money

The Better Business Bureau offers a number of tips that adult children of aging parents can use to help keep Mom and Dad from becoming fraud victims or falling for scams targeted mainly at older individuals. Here, based on the BBB advice, are some of the best:

  • Get involved with seniors’ financial decisions as much as possible, especially when you see any signs that managing their own personal finances has become a burden.
  • Warn your elderly parents to never give out personal banking information, credit card numbers or social security numbers to someone who has called. Popular scams include promising information on some new arthritis cure or other health miracle product, soliciting a charitable donation, or confirming a sweepstakes prize.
  • No matter what your parents are buying, if any salesperson will not provide written information about his or her company–including the company’s name, address and telephone number, tell Dad or Mom to do business with someone else.
  • If someone calls from a “government agency” requesting money, or making threats if Mom or Dad doesn’t pay over the phone, tell your folks not to give them any information. Instead, they should ask for a certified letter on official letterhead.
  • Warn them about scam artists who develop relationships with older adults on the phone and eventually begin asking them for money or loans, or requesting that they sign up for something.
  • Tell your parents never to hire anyone who shows up at their door. If they are told their plumbing needs to be fixed, or the roof needs repair, or they need to get in on a low-priced deal on windows right away, odds are, it’s a scam. The scammer will ask for a deposit, or even “payment in advance,” and never show up again.
  • Tell your parents never to make any “on-the-spot” decision that involves money, regardless of pressure to act immediately. If someone says they have to take the offer right now, or they will miss the opportunity, advise them to say, “No thanks, but I’m not ready to buy.”  Legitimate companies don’t pressure people to act without giving them time to look into the product or service.
  • Warn your Dad and/or Mom  never to fall for any investment that promises high returns with no risk. A reputable advisor will always disclose details about risks, as well as information that the investor can check out before investing any money.

Also, give yourself a gift: Be sure to follow the same BBB-based advice that you give your folks. And check out all of the services we offer to help protect you as an individual or as a business owner. You want to keep your parents safe. But you don’t ever want to be a fraud victim, either.

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