How Elderly Homeowners Can Protect Themselves From Con Artists
Fraudsters and con artists prey on vulnerable people on the assumption that they are easier to trick into a scam. Elderly family members are a favorite target. Most senior citizens either have their own homes, have a “nest egg,” and/or have stellar credit, making them all the more attractive to criminals.
Rip-off artists go door-to-door to take advantage of this situation by usually claiming they are salespeople who want to perform a demo of their product or a contractor who needs to “check” the integrity of the home’s structure. In some cases, unknowing seniors are manipulated into writing checks up front for certain “products” or “services” or handing cash over. However, as soon as the money is given, they flee and are never heard from again.
High Rate Of Crime, But Only A Few Reported
It is despicable; yet, it happens in the US all the time. This is because seniors are less likely to report being defrauded. Why? Either they don’t know where to file a report and how to do it, are too ashamed that they were scammed or, worse, are still not aware of what happened to them. Some purposely hide the incident for fear that family members will think they do not have the mental capacity to take care of themselves or their finances.
According to the FBI, seniors also tend to make poor witnesses to a crime. Fraudsters are aware that age affects memory quality and will be counting on this weakness so investigators will see a dead end. Victims might also not be aware that they are being conned and will continue to meet up and send money to the tricksters. Some only realize after so many months, or when their finances have been depleted, that they have been scammed.
5 Ways Seniors Can Shield Themselves From Fraud
- Always look for authentic references.
Rip-off artists will not be able to supply authentic references because they are scammers. Make sure that your elderly family member takes the time to call each of the references listed to confirm credibility. If there are only new references, that should also be signal that they might be fake, too. If somebody comes to the door offering all kinds of awesome stuff but become edgy and evasive when asked for verifiable references, close the door.
- Never do business with a door-to-door salesman without written verification.
Unless a salesman is able to provide plenty of information about the company and can give a verifiable address, never ever do business with him or her. Emphasize to your family member that if the salesperson refuses to provide information about the company or dodges the question, he or she cannot be trusted.
- Never supply personal information at the door.
Never let your elderly family members give up personal information about themselves or your household to strangers (or to anybody, for that matter). Scammers will want to know what assets are inside the home, how many people live there, financial details, everybody else’s whereabouts, and more.
This information gives them the opportunity to steal right then and there, or map out a grand scheme. Even if they claim to be from the government or from a certain popular charity, tell the elderly members to never entertain them unless they have IDs and verifiable identities.
- Never hire anybody on the spot
Con artists who target senior citizens tend to trick their way into getting hired for a job as quickly as possible and to claim payment up front. Sometimes, they will useful aggressive methods just to manipulate the elderly to give them work. Often, they will not return to finish the job or will just disappear as soon as the money is handed to them.
To prevent your family members from becoming victims, never hire any contractor or agree to a payment-first scheme. It should always be work first, payment after. Better yet, take the time to check all references and ask for second opinions before agreeing to hire.
- Sign up for “Do Not Call” lists
This will prevent telemarketers from calling your home and eventually tricking seniors to buy into this and that scheme. It will be very easy for salesmen to ask your loved ones to give out credit card details over the phone because they’re selling something seniors “absolutely need right now.” Sometimes, telemarketers offering subscriptions to phone friendships can easily trick the elderly, especially if they’re always home alone and need someone to talk to regularly. These unassuming calls may seem harmless but are actually charged by the minute, leaving your loved one with a huge bill from someone he or she thought was sincere.
Protecting Elderly Loved Ones From Scams
The most common scams on seniors involve the sale of products that guarantee a boost in virility, memory function, or physical performance. They can also offer anti-cancer products, anti-aging devices, and so on. In the US, where there are “breakthrough” herbs or drugs being launched claiming to be the solution to all the aches and pains of growing old, con artists certainly have some leverage.
More sadly, some cons made on seniors are by those who are close to them, like another family member out for an early release of their inheritance, or a caregiver who has tricked the patient into leaving assets under his or her name. If you suspect that your elderly family member has been affected, check the recent changes in his or her accounts or if the monthly bills remain unpaid despite having enough money. Also observe if the senior appears confused and afraid about something.
Fraudsters will be amiable, friendly, and definitely sincere-sounding, and this will easily bait seniors because “they seemed nice.” Given this reality, take the time to discuss with your elderly family member and remind him or her not to be too trusting of the people around them. More often than not, scammers will be very well dressed and are masters at conversation, so they can’t simply be judged by how they look.