Elder Fraud and Ways to Help Prevent ItSubmitted by Miller Financial Group | Red Oak Iowa Financial Advisor on August 3rd, 2017
Elder Fraud and Ways to Help Prevent It
As someone who helps oversee the resources of many families, I feel it is very important that we work together to ensure the safety of our senior community. Not only their physical safety, but the safety of their financial resources as well. Through no fault of their own, this demographic is often viewed as an easy target for fraud artists and those wishing to take advantage. Unfortunately elder fraud is on the rise as con artists continue to look for ways to take advantage of the often trusting nature of this generation.
With the advancements in medical technology our senior loved ones are now living more active and longer lives than ever before. Which is a great thing of course! The problem is that with the rapid increase in technology and those who capitalize on its use, we are seeing this group of our population, who may be a little less technologically savvy than some, become prime targets for elder fraud.
According to the organization Fraud.org it is estimated that over $40 Billion dollars is stolen from seniors each year through fraudulent scams. Officials also predict that this number may be grossly understated because they estimate that the majority of elder fraud either goes undetected or unreported. Once discovered by the defrauded party, often times they, or their families, are reluctant to report the incident because they may too embarrassed by the situation, or fear they will be targeted again.
So what are we to do? We need to help educate our loved ones to be on the look-out and help them realize that they may be vulnerable to this type of unlawful activity. The following are a few Fraud Prevention Tips for our readers to consider as they strive to take care of their loved ones. We can’t be with our elder family members all of the time, so I feel families need as much information as they can get to help prevent these types of activities.
One of the first tips is to encourage your loved ones not to speak at length on the phone, or over the internet, with people that they are not familiar with. Oftentimes fraudsters will try to prey upon the good nature, and sometimes the inherent loneliness of seniors, to try to get them to reveal some sort of personal information they can use to their advantage. Once they get this information they may use technology to dig even deeper into their bank accounts, or other parts of their personal life. Fraud artists have also been known to use these calls as a way to learn someone’s address and to see if they live alone. For example, one common question these con artists may ask an elder woman is “Is this such-and-such address and can they speak to the man of the house?” With this one question they are trying to obtain the seniors correct address and to see if they live alone. This can be potentially dangerous for vulnerable widows who live alone.
So this brings me to my next tip and that is not allowing strangers, or anyone that you did not invite, into the home. Fraud artists often pose as salesmen or maybe poll takers who say they just need a few minutes of the seniors’ time. Of course their goal is to just get into the home where they may try to take advantage of the senior in a myriad of ways. Oftentimes they work in pairs where one person will keep the person occupied while the other will look for bills or bank account information. And of course in the worst case scenarios, they may try to physically rob or bring harm to the seniors themselves.
Another elder fraud scheme is obtaining personally identifiable information by means of going through someone’s trash or through their mail. This form of ‘dumpster diving” is a method that con artists use to try to gather account information and other personally identifiable information that folks get in the mail, and then often discard in the trash. Con artists may also try to intercept someone’s mail and steal it before the recipient has even had a chance to get to the mailbox. To help reduce the threat of these two types of access for potential fraud, two steps may need to be considered. First, the senior may want to have all of their mail delivered to a lockable mailbox of some type. Either a P.O. Box or a lockable box at the end of their drive. Then, before discarding anything they received in the mail, make sure and run the refuse through a shredder before it goes into the trash. So if you are ever looking for a gift for your parents who may already have “everything they need” you might consider a locking mailbox and a paper shredder. These might turn out to be the best gifts they ever received!
The last area of elder fraud that I want to highlight is Medicare insurance fraud. Medicare health insurance fraud schemes prey upon the trusting nature of many seniors and their need for information regarding these very important programs and their related insurance programs. Less-than-reputable companies often target seniors offering them free medical supplies in return for either their Medicare numbers or Social Security numbers. They claim they need these numbers to be able to properly process their claims. This of course is also just a ruse. We need to make sure and tell our loved ones that a doctor must always order and sign for all medical equipment before Medicare will pay for it. Also, no reputable company would try to acquire this type of information over the phone.
Unfortunately it’s impossible to identify and list all of the types of schemes that are used against our senior population. So I would encourage everyone to do their best to help educate their loved ones and talk to them about some of these potential dangers. As the saying goes, sometimes it “takes a village” to not only help raise our children, but to protect our loved ones as well.
Daniel S. Miller is an investment adviser representative of, and securities and advisory services are offered through, USA Financial Securities Corp. (Member FINRA/SIPC). USA Financial Securities is a registered investment adviser located at 6020 E Fulton St., Ada, MI 49301. Miller Financial Group is not affiliated with USA Financial Securities.