As a family caregiver of a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you understand the need for diligence. If they wander, you may have installed a video monitoring system. If they exhibit signs of confusion and struggle with the everyday tasks of living, you may have obtained the services of an in-home care provider to assist them. While these are easily solvable, a more severe problem are scams targeted to seniors.
Unfortunately, those with Alzheimer’s and dementia are particularly vulnerable to scams. Each year, millions of seniors fall prey to these unscrupulous scam artists. According to MetLife Inc., this results in an approximate loss of $2.9 billion annually.
Let’s look at the top scams of 2017 and how to help you protect your loved one.
TOP SCAMS FOR SENIORS IN 2017
- Call from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In this scam, seniors are informed that they owe back taxes and associated penalties. A report in USA Today stated that at least "1.97 million people have been targeted, with as many as 200 victimized per week" with the average age being over 60.
- Telemarketing phone scams. There are several different approaches that con artists use to extract personal information or money. In the charity scam, the caller will ask for money for those suffering from recent natural disasters. In sweepstakes and lottery scams, the caller reports that the victim has won a prize and must pay a fee to collect their winnings.
- Grandparent’s scam. This heartless scam involves the perpetrator calling with news that the victim’s grandchild needs help paying a hospital bill or getting out of jail.
- Internet scams. The Internet is a growing avenue for fraud directed toward the elderly and particularly those suffering from the effects of dementia. According to the National Council on Aging, Internet fraud is one of the top ten financial scams targeting seniors. They suggest the scam is conducted in the following manner: “Pop-up browser windows simulating virus-scanning software will fool victims into either downloading a fake anti-virus program (at a substantial cost) or an actual virus that will open up whatever information is on the user’s computer to scammers.”
- Funeral and cemetery scams. These scams involve people attending a funeral service to extract money from grieving spouses or funeral homes that charge unnecessary expenses.
- Counterfeit Prescription Drugs. Individuals who sell counterfeit prescription drugs on the Internet conduct this particularly disturbing scam. These counterfeit medications can cause not only financial harm, but also physical harm for susceptible seniors.
HOW TO HELP YOUR LOVED ONE
The good news is that there are methods for helping your loved one avoid theft.
- Shred any documents that have their personal information on them. This includes seemingly innocuous information such as their address and phone number.
- Add your loved one to the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call Registry. This is designed to help limit the number of telemarketing calls a person receives. Similarly, contact White Pages to remove their landline and cellphone numbers from publishing.
- Speak to your loved one about never giving out any personal information over the phone or Internet. If they have any concerns about someone who is calling, suggest they ask for their name and number and speak to you about the person and subject before acting on or sharing information with them. Let them know that if their intentions are less than stellar, they will most likely not give their number out or tell them there is some form of time restraint, and the decision must be made at once.
- Keep their personal and financial documents secure. If your loved one is unable to make decisions, offer to keep their financial and personal information in a safe place. This way if they need these documents they ask you before giving it out.
- If you suspect your parent is the victim of a scam, contact the appropriate authorities such as the local police department and alert your parent’s bank and credit card companies.
- Trust your gut feeling. If you feel something is not right, you are probably right. It could be something as vague as your parent discussing a new friend and the financial troubles they may be in, to your dad having a new girlfriend who needs financial assistance. With a little investigation, you can determine if it is the real deal or a scam artist at work.
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