Millions of older adults are victims of financial scams each year. Here are some tips to protect yourself.
- Stay connected and involved
Isolating yourself, not having regular connections to people, not leaving your home, puts you at greater risk of elder abuse. Most violence only occurs behind closed doors, and elder abuse is no exception. Some people as they get older, withdraw from their community. Other seniors are isolated because they no longer drive, or see, or walk on their own. Some older persons worry about their safety out in public. Find services nearby that can help you stay active. Visit your local senior center. Stay involved in your religious community. Maintain friendships.
- Strangers and people you are close to can take advantage of you
Your family and friends can be a wonderful source of love and support. As a senior, you should understand that you are more vulnerable than you were when you were younger. So be aware of situations and people who might take advantage of you. Would it surprise you to know that studies have shown that over 90% of all reported elder abuse is committed by family members, adult children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews. The abuse could be physical, but is often financial. Examples include: talking you into giving them large sums of money; gaining access to your accounts and withdrawing money; promising to do things for you in exchange for money but then not doing them; or outright theft. Unfortunately elder abuse can and often does involve physical abuse, threats, intimidation, and neglect of basic care needs.
- Direct deposit Social Security and retirement checks
Arrange for all of your benefit checks like Social Security, pensions, retirements and annuities to be directly deposited into your bank account. This ensures the checks go right into your accounts and are protected. And you won’t have to run to the bank every time you get a monthly benefit check.
- Never give personal or financial information over the phone
If you didn’t initiate the call to a person or business, never ever give your credit card, banking, Social Security Number, Medicare number, or other personal information over the phone. Misuse of Medicare dollars is one of the largest scams involving seniors. These scams include billing for services never delivered and selling unneeded devices or services. Don’t ever allow anyone to use your Social Security number or Medicare number. If a salesperson is trying to sell you something they promise will be paid for by Medicare, end the conversation.
- Use a paper shredder
Keep your credit cards and wallet secure and safe. Be very careful about giving out your credit card information and how it will be used. Don’t give out your bank or credit card information over the phone to a person who calls you for something. Asked questions. Don’t assume it will be protected. Shred all receipts that have your credit card number. Identity theft is pervasive. Regularly check your bank and credit card statements to make sure there are no questionable or fraudulent transactions.
- Beware of solicitors
Don’t buy things from someone you don’t know who knocks on your door or calls you. Don’t give them any personal or financial information. If your neighbor’s daughter is having a bake sale for her school or is selling Girl Scout cookies, sure buy a box or two if you like. But otherwise, tell solicitors you don’t buy or give to anyone who visits or calls you unannounced. Never donate if it requires you to write your credit card information on a form.
- Get on the “Do Not Call” list
To stop telemarketers from contacting you, go to: donotcall.gov
That is the official website for the National Do Not Call Registry. Sign up to stop telemarketers’ calls.
Also, don’t let incoming mail sit in your mailbox for a long time. When you send out sensitive mail, drop it off at a secure collection box or directly at the post office.
- Unsolicited offers = danger
Call and shop around before you make a purchase. Be an informed consumer. Take someone you trust with you to help you make difficult decisions or decisions regarding large purchases.
Carefully read contracts, and make sure you understand them before you sign. Make sure the contract is complete and includes everything agreed on. Understand when and how you can cancel and get a refund. And don’t ever let someone pressure you into making purchases, signing contracts, or paying money.