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What to Do if You Think Your Elderly Parent Is Being Scammed

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Millions of seniors are scammed out of their money every year in the United States. Elderly individuals tend to be more susceptible to financial scams. They also tend to have more assets, including owning a home, financial savings and good credit after a lifetime of work. Older Americans suffering from medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s or dementia may also get confused when managing their money. Others may have trouble using the latest technology, including mobile banking apps, email or the internet. Use this guide to protect your aging relatives from scams targeting seniors.

Elderly father and adult son exercising outside together.
Yellow notepad with pen svg icon Lesson Notes:
  • Elderly Americans are often targets of different kinds of money scams, including lottery, romance, medical and social security scams.
  • If you suspect that your elderly parent is the victim of a scam or identity theft, take action immediately with the steps outlined below.

What to Do After a Potential Scam

If you believe your family member or friend has been scammed, help them take these steps immediately:

  • Save a copy of the interaction or message that led to the scam. It may have been an email, letter or envelope, text message or phone call.
  • Contact your local FBI office or visit their website to file a complaint. They’ll need to include the names of the scammer or company, dates of contact, methods of communication, any personal information the hacker may have used to commit fraud, as well as how and where the funds were sent.
  • Help them contact their financial institution to secure your parent’s account. Be sure to include the same information you shared with the authorities. The member service representative will freeze their account or cancel their debit or credit card to stop the hacker from making additional purchases.
  • Help them check their credit score to see if these purchases affected their score. It may take several weeks for the agency to update your parent’s credit score, so be sure to check back at a later date. Consider freezing their credit to prevent new accounts from being opened in their name.
  • Update any information that may have been exposed to hackers, including your parent’s username and password on affected websites or accounts. Use multi-factor authentication where possible to make their accounts more secure.
  • Adjust the privacy settings on their computer or phone to block spam messages and junk mail.
  • Put your parent’s name and phone number on the “Do Not Call” list.
Yellow lightbulb with dollar sign in the middle svg icon Quick Tip

Power of Attorney

Remember, to have any legal authority to make changes to or monitor your parent's financial accounts, you’ll most likely need a power of attorney (POA). As your parents age, have a discussion with them to see if a POA would give them peace of mind. If they want to proceed with a POA, engage with an attorney or legal professional to see what would be most appropriate to suit their wants and needs. Generally, the earlier you can start this conversation, the better.

How to Protect Elderly Parents from Scams

Use these tips to protect your parents from financial scams targeting the elderly:

Keep in Touch

The best thing you can do to protect your elderly parents is to keep in touch regularly. Talk to them about the risks of sharing their personal information online, over the phone or in the mail. They should contact you right away if they suspect they have been involved in a scam.

Set Up Alerts

Your parent’s bank account should come with built-in security. They should receive an alert if their account has been hacked or the bank detects suspicious activity. If needed, have them forward you the alerts or notifications so you can help them take control of the situation as quickly as possible.

Save Copies

Encourage your parents to save copies of their correspondence with people asking for their personal information, including letters, mail, emails, texts and phone numbers.

Encourage an Open Dialogue

Unfortunately, some elderly victims may also be too ashamed or embarrassed to tell their family members that they’ve given away their personal information to a digital hacker or scammer leading to under-reporting of elder fraud. If you suspect that your parent may be too embarrassed to admit they have been the victim of a scam, remind them that you’re there to help and they shouldn’t feel ashamed for making a mistake. Show compassion for your loved ones during this stressful time.

Teach Digital Hygiene

If your parents are using the internet, teach them how to spot suspicious messages and websites. They should look over the message or website to make sure it’s legitimate. Your parents should never send or share their personal information online, over the phone or in the mail unless they recognize the sender. Remember, Ent will never contact a member-owner to ask for a PIN, online banking username/password, full Social Security number, CVV2 code or verification code.

Watch Out for Warning Signs

As you maintain your relationship with your parents, be on the lookout for signs that something is wrong. Talk to them if they seem depressed, anxious or disaffected from what’s going on around them, which are common among victims of scams.

Reach Out to a Professional

Digital hygiene can be confusing, regardless of your age. If you don’t feel qualified in these matters, reach out to a cybersecurity expert for advice and additional information. They may be able to call your parent, so they can learn from someone that knows what they’re talking about.

You may be your parent’s first line of defense when it comes to financial scams. Make yourself available to your parents, so you can help them manage their money in the digital world. Contact Ent’s Information Security Team to learn more about how we are protecting your parents’ financial information.

 

Helpful Resources

If you suspect an elderly loved one is the victim of fraud, check out these resources:

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