Protect Elderly Parents Against Fraud

Do you really need to protect elderly parents against fraud?  Aging parents, especially those who have accumulated a sizable “nest egg,” are a fertile field for con artists and tricksters.  For one thing, they generally have more free time than their children.  Fraudsters will use that time to pressure seniors into buying investments that fizzle, insurance they don’t need, and “miracle cures” that don’t work.  Also, as several studies have demonstrated, seniors tend to forget information more readily than their younger counterparts.  As a result, they’re more vulnerable to the “bait and switch” scenario.  In addition, older people are often more trusting and polite than the younger generation.  A baby boomer may have no pangs of conscience about hanging up on a pushy salesman, but a senior is reluctant to do so.

Want to help your elderly parents from becoming victims of fraud?  Here are five ideas:

Know what scammers want most.

If the scammer is in the identity theft game, he or she is after specific data:  date of birth, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit card information, and bank account numbers. Teach your folks to withhold that information unless absolutely certain that the person or company has a legitimate need to know.

Get everything in writing.

If your elderly parents are hiring a landscaper or contractor, they shouldn’t accept oral estimates.  Job specifications and cost estimates should be put in writing.  When the job’s done, they should keep all written receipts in a safe place.

Check them out.

If someone is selling insurance or investments, they should be registered with state authorities.  These agencies often publish information – usually available on a state’s website – about disciplinary actions taken against a firm or individual.

Beware the Web!

Unlike snake oil salesmen of old who traveled from town to town hawking secret formulas, today’s scammers sit at home and use the Internet.  Tell your parents to be wary of outlandish claims and “too good to be true” testimonials that appear in the Internet advertising.

Maintain open communication.

Talking to your elderly parents about their finances can be a delicate task.  Such discussions touch on very real needs for privacy and independence.  But refusing to talk can be a recipe for disaster.  At the very least, your parents should know a trusted advisor who can help them weigh the pros and cons of significant purchases.

Unfortunately, certain people make a living by preying on the vulnerable.  By following a few simple guidelines, you can reduce the risk that your parents will become victims of fraud.

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