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  • Archive for the ‘scams’ Category

    Elder Fraud and Financial Abuse Concerns: Spotting Elder Fraud as a Caregiver

    Monday, November 25th, 2013

    Elder financial fraud victimizes hundreds of thousands of elderly persons each year. Older Americans hold the largest percentage of this nation’s wealth, making them prime targets for abuse by unethical financial professionals, scammers, caregivers and even family members. Elder financial abuse is the misuse of an older person’s property or financial resources without their consent or understanding. Senior financial abuse scams are a multi‐billion dollar “industry.” Estimates say that it costs $2.6 billion a year. It can cause older Americans additional stress and serious health care concerns.

    Scammers use a variety of tricks and scenarios to steal, such as misusing credit cards, telemarketing, jury notices, and phishing emails. For more about the most common scams, read our special report on senior fraud. Victims of financial abuse are usually between the ages 80 and 89. Women are twice as likely to be targeted as men. Most of those victimized live alone and require some type of assistance either with health care or home maintenance.

    Caregivers, therefore, are often the ones that will see a problem first because of their close relationship with the elder. Caregivers frequently oversee or otherwise assist with finances of the person for whom they care. They may also have the Durable Power of Attorney, which allows you to make financial decisions for someone who has become incapacitated.

    Here are some common tactics that scammers and fraudsters use:

    • High pressure or misleading sales efforts (excessive fees and interest rates, large prepayment penalties, etc.)
    • Asking for personal information over the phone
    • Promises of gifts when signing up right away
    • People who promise to split money found, after a “good faith” payment is made


    You should also be aware of indications that someone has already become a victim. Some warning actions are:

    • Failure to pay bills, or bounced checks when there should be enough money to cover expenses
    • Failure to buy food or medication, especially if other unnecessary purchases are being made (jewelry, golf clubs, home repairs)
    • Taking out large amounts of money from bank or cash accounts, or making numerous withdrawals of smaller amounts
    • Missing personal property or belongings
    • Becoming too close with a much younger or otherwise inappropriate person
    • Writing checks for large amounts to people you do know


    For more information about how to protect those you care about, read our report written in conjunction with the Center for American Nurses on Protecting Your Mother from Financial Fraud and Abuse. If you believe the person for whom you care has become a victim of financial fraud,take a look at our caregiver booklet for a list of resources and agencies you can contact. The Senate Aging Committee also recently launched an Anti-Fraud Hotline designed to help elder Americans fight against fraud. The number is 1-855-303-9470. You can learn more about it from the committee’s press release here.


    Seniors who are victims of financial fraud and abuse have little opportunity to recover financially from their losses.  It is important to educate yourself and the person you are caring for about this important issue.  As a caregiver, you can play a key role in detecting signs of possible financial fraud or abuse.

    Modern Scams Can Catch You Off Guard

    Monday, September 30th, 2013

    Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 10.29.51 AMModern-day financial scams can be so tricky that you might not realize you have been defrauded until it is too late. One example of a recent financial scam targeting seniors is the medical-alert scam robocalls. Many seniors have been receiving, and complaining about, these prerecorded messages, which tell them that a doctor or relative has signed them up for the medical-alert system. The automatic message then requests personal information, such as credit card numbers, bank information, and/or Social Security numbers, from that senior in order to complete the transaction. If the senior gives over this information, the scammer who set up the call is likely to use that information to access the senior’s financial accounts.

    Financial frauds like this are more and more common, and can be very convincing. Today’s seniors have to ward off scams from many different sources, including over the phone, online (especially through email), and in person (often at your own front door). To protect yourself from these tricky modern-day financial scams, educate yourself on the scams that are out there, and follow a few rules of thumb designed to keep you and your money safe. 

    5 Rules to Help Avoid Financial Scams

    1. Never give out personal information over the phone, online, or in person to anyone you don’t know. If you are ever conflicted over whether or not to give out personal and financial information, don’t do it. Instead, ask the person requesting your information for information about them and their company, including names and phone numbers of managers and references. Then do some research, or ask a friend or family member to help you do research, in order to verify the company and its reputation before you give them any personal information.

    2. Because it can be scary and overwhelming to make these kinds of decisions quickly, it is helpful to create a “refusal script.” Keep the script by your phone and your front door so that you can read off of it if you are feeling confused about what to say. The script can be very short so that it is easy to remember and quick to read. Write a script that you feel comfortable with and practice it from time to time. A refusal script can be as simple as “I’m sorry. This is not a good time. Thank you for calling/stoping by.” If you suspect an email you have received to be a scam, simply do not respond at all.

    3. Sign up for the “Do Not Call List” at, or by calling 888-382-1222 from the phone you wish to add to the list. You can always ask a friend or family member to help you sign up if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself. Once you are on this list, most telemarketers should not call your number. However, signing up will not protect you from illegitimate telemarketing calls, such as the medical-alert scam robocalls. Also important to know is that recently, scammers have been calling people claiming to represent the National Do Not Call Registry. The registry will not call you, you must call them or go to their website to sign up.

    4. Wait at least 24 hours after a sales pitch before making a decision about purchasing anything. This gives you time to think about the decision, do some research, and make a thoughtful and educated choice about whether or not the the purchase or transaction is right for you.

    5. If it is too good to be true, it probably is. Be very wary of any offers of free stuff, such as free lunch or dinner seminars. Also, if someone is offering to help you make a lot of money in a short amount of time, it is probably a scam. Be very wary of any emails that claim “Free money!” or “There is no risk!” or that use the phrases “I’m the Legal Representative for (someone you’ve never heard of)” or “We’re Holding Money for You.”

    Educate Yourself!

    The Better Business Bureau keeps track of financial scams around the country. You can look at the list of scams by visiting Here, you can also check out a business or charity that may have recently called you asking for money or financial information. Additionally, if you become aware of a scam, you can use this site to report it so that others can learn about it and protect themselves against it.

    Also, know the profile of scammers and those they target. Scammers are most often men. Financial scams tend to target more women than men, and tend to target people who are in their 80s or older, live alone, and need some help to maintain their independence.

    Lastly, know that anyone can fall victim to financial frauds, no matter their age or education. It is important to pay attention to the different types of scams out there so that you are on alert, and to tell your friends and family what to look out for and what to do if they are confronted with a possible scam.  And if you do discover you have been a victim of a scam, don’t’ be ashamed–tell someone you trust so you can take the next steps to protect yourself.

    For more information, check out WISER’s Financial Elder Abuse Resources page, and our Scams and Fraud resource page.

    Stop, Look and Listen- Don’t Become a Victim of Elder Financial Abuse

    Friday, October 8th, 2010

    A 60 year old woman’s phone rings, so she picks it up and hears what she believes to be the voice of her grandson on the other end, informing her the he has been in a terrible accident in Mexico and needs to borrow some money to cover hospital costs. Frantic, the woman hangs up the phone and transfers the funds to the bank account where her grandson instructed.  However, it turns out the young man was not her grandson and her money did not go towards medical expenses after all.

    Unfortunately, “Grandmother” scams happen more often than one would imagine, they are a real risk and can result in the loss of thousands of dollars for elders.  According to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), the typical victim of elder financial abuse is a 70 to 89 year old white female who is frail and cognitively impaired. Financial abuse; however, affects a wide range of personality types, both genders, and people at all income levels.

    Here are some other smooth lines to look out for, and to educate your parents, spouse, and friends about:

    •    “We’ll give you a free lunch and teach you how to invest your money.”
    Don’t let a free lunch and some well-dressed, well-spoken sales persons pressure you. Don’t purchase financial products that you don’t understand or need.

    •    “I’m a ‘Senior Certified Financial Planner’ and I have some wonderful investment products for a person just your age.”
    Watch out for people using educational titles to convince you that they have been “certified” as experts in financial matters affecting seniors. In reality, there is no such designation.

    •   “You’ve just won $10,000. If you give me your bank account number, we can put in right in the bank for you.”
    Never give out any account numbers to anyone over the phone or to anyone you don’t know.

    •     “The IRS has made an error in your taxes and will refund the money if you fill in your Social Security number on the attached form.”
    This request may come in an official-looking envelope, but think about it; obviously the IRS already knows your Social Security number. Do not fall for this one.

    **If you’re in the DC area, Financial Services Roundtable will be hosting a symposium on “Protecting and Rebuilding Seniors’ Assets through Financial Education,” on October 14.  Cindy Hounsell, WISER’s President will be presenting, along with other helpful experts.

    The Financial Services Roundtable
    1001 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
    Suite 500 South
    Washington, DC 20004

    WHEN: October 14, 2010
    11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. (Lunch will be provided)

    WHY: To discuss public and private sector efforts to increase financial literacy among senior citizens.

    Please RSVP to Aleksia Ilic at by October 12.

    Everyone, including seniors, can help stem the tide of elder financial abuse with increased awareness!


    About Us

    WISER is a nonprofit organization that works to help women, educators and policymakers understand the important issues surrounding women's retirement income. WISER creates a variety of consumer publications including fact sheets, booklets and a quarterly newsletter that explain in easy-to-understand language the complex issues surrounding Social Security, divorce, pay equity, pensions, savings and investments, banking, home-ownership, long-term care and disability insurance.

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