Your parents, especially those who live alone, are vulnerable to scams and schemes for three reasons. First, seniors tend to be trusting. They also may be lonely and sometimes distant from those who can protect them. Senior parents are also vulnerable because they worry about their financial security. Finally, scammers know that many seniors have money and valuable possessions.
Even though approximately 50 percent of elderly Americans are victims of financial exploitation, only 10 to 15 percent of the abuses are reported.
The following may indicate that your parents are being victimized:
* Sudden bank account changes, especially an unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money
* Unfamiliar long-distance telephone numbers, especially from overseas, on their monthly bill
* Significantly lower standard of living (change in eating and shopping habits; unable to afford things they once afforded)
* Selling higher-end items such as furniture, antiques, and so on
* Sudden disappearance of valuable possessions
* Increase in commercial or junk mail
* Sudden change in behavior; symptoms of depression or anxiety
* Increased worries over money
Your parents protected you when you were young with advice and example. Look both ways before crossing the street, never speak to strangers, and a host of other suggestions were meant to protect you. Sadly, our parents reach a point where they need us to protect them!
Here are six suggestions to protect your parents from scams and schemes:
1. Ask or discuss with your parents who has durable power of attorney.
2. Register your parents’ telephone numbers with the National Do Not Call registry (www.donotcall.gov).
3. Discuss with them the list of common frauds listed above. Ask them to contact you if they suspect anyone is trying to defraud them.
4. Ask your parents to contact you if anyone offers to buy any of their possessions.
5. Make sure a family member personally visits your parents on a weekly basis. If this is a challenge and you have other siblings, take turns.
6. Reduce junk mail for a small fee by going to either of these web sites: www.stopthejunkmail.com and http://mailstopper.tonic.com.
The National Center for Elder Abuse is an excellent resource for information on financial and other forms of abuse against senior citizens. It publishes reports and conducts research on this growing problem. NCEA’s mission is to promote understanding, knowledge sharing, and action on elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Its web site also offers links to other excellent resources and organizations also devoted to protecting senior citizens. Their web site is www.ncea.aoa.gov.
Honor your parents by standing between them and anyone who sees them as an easy target.
© 2012 Julie Hall