Over the next 25 years, the number of Americans over the age of 65 will more than double to 72 million. And by 2030, seniors will make up at least 20% of the total U.S. population. Sadly, many con artists see those numbers as a major opportunity, and there’s growing evidence that criminals are stepping up their schemes focusing on the elderly.
Rip-off artists, sketchy financial advisers, and door-to-door con men have always targeted the elderly for fraud, but many aging Americans are especially vulnerable now that international calls, email, and the internet have opened up new avenues for financial fraud. In one shockingly common scam, a caller from Jamaica claims to have lottery winnings for the senior — if only they will pay some back taxes first. Other seniors are fooled by phony IRS agents, or by Nigerian scammers posing as American soldiers on dating websites.
What’s worse, scammers are now targeting lonely seniors, some of whom suffer from dementia and other forms of cognitive decline. These con men callers can be relentless once they’ve identified a potential victim, often harassing seniors who live alone and are vulnerable to such elder abuse. How can you protect an aging parent, relative, or neighbor from financial fraud like this?
First, communication is key. Spend some time talking with the seniors in your life about these scams, and make sure they understand the common schemes targeting older Americans. Consumer advocates Consumer Reports also recommends taking the following steps:
- If you suspect a senior has fallen victim to financial or elder abuse, call the Senate Special Committee on Aging fraud hotline at (855) 303-9470
- Install Caller ID and ignore unknown callers
- Opt out of all commercial mail solicitation
- Never speak with door-to-door sales people
- Research contractors and other services with local licensing companies and the Better Business Bureau
- If your loved one lives alone, try and help them get involved in a community or assisted living center where they won’t be so isolated
But because 90% of seniors want to “age in place,” they are often resistant to assisted living homes. This puts them in serious danger, because these scammers are always hunting for seniors who live alone. If you want to make sure your loved ones are safe, consider the benefits of senior care services. Unlike elder care, which provides medical services, senior care services provide companionship services like help with finances, scheduling, prescription refills, cooking and cleaning, hygiene, help around the house, travel around town, and so much more.
Senior care services like these are often covered by Medicaid or other state programs designed to help seniors. By talking regularly with aging parents, you can help them become more aware of common scams. And by working to keep them engaged in their community, you can avoid the loneliness so many of these con men prey upon.