repost­ed from
by: Andrea Murad
Octo­ber 29, 2014

Finan­cial fraud is dev­as­tat­ing to every­one, but it can hit the elder­ly espe­cial­ly hard.

“If you’re 20 [years old] and some­thing hap­pens to you finan­cial­ly, you have a long time to make a dif­fer­ence,” says Mack­ey McNeill, founder, pres­i­dent and CEO of Mack­ey Advi­sors. “If you’re old­er and not able to go back to work and recov­er, hav­ing fraud per­pe­trat­ed on you can sig­nif­i­cant­ly change the rest of your life.”

Fraud­sters are increas­ing­ly set­ting their sights on old­er con­sumers, and the finan­cial impact can be dev­as­tat­ing— espe­cial­ly for those on a fixed income.

“Typ­i­cal­ly, that gen­er­a­tion has more sav­ings and valu­able items and that’s where crim­i­nals go because that’s where assets and resources are,” says Gary McAlum, senior vice pres­i­dent of enter­prise secu­ri­ty at USAA. “The elder­ly tend to be more trust­ing and open to char­i­ty scams and might be less like­ly to report these details because they’re embar­rassed or don’t remem­ber the details.”

When it comes to pro­tect­ing your loved ones, know­ing whom to trust is impor­tant but tricky. “It’s not just crim­i­nals who have nefar­i­ous inten­tions, and it can be peo­ple who are the clos­est to the elder­ly,” says McAlum. “We have to have a very open mind to the poten­tial of who might exploit seniors.” The elder­ly also need to be wary of any­one tak­ing a sud­den inter­est in their finances, like cer­tain fam­i­ly mem­bers, friends or peo­ple from orga­ni­za­tions like their churches.

Scams tar­get­ing the elder­ly come in many dif­fer­ent forms: some­times it’s adding a name to a bank account, oth­er times it’s a tele­mar­keter sell­ing a fake invest­ment or prod­uct that requires a cred­it card num­ber or oth­er infor­ma­tion that can be used lat­er for iden­ti­ty theft. Some peo­ple ask for mon­ey out­right after estab­lish­ing an emo­tion­al con­nec­tion through email or phone.

While you can’t be there all the time to watch over grand­par­ents, there are pre­cau­tions you can take:



Often, the elder­ly don’t want to give up their inde­pen­dence, which makes com­mu­ni­ca­tion impor­tant. “Tell your elder­ly loved ones that you can get a sec­ond opin­ion with finances just like you do with doc­tors,” says San Diego-based cer­ti­fied pub­lic accoun­tant Leonard Wright.

“There are ways to com­mu­ni­cate with the elder­ly so they don’t feel like you’re tak­ing over.” This could also mean explain­ing the impor­tance of call­ing anoth­er fam­i­ly mem­ber before send­ing any mon­ey to a third par­ty or agree­ing to a new con­tract, cred­it card or investment.


Always Ask for More Information

The best pro­tec­tion against finan­cial fraud­sters is to be skep­ti­cal of any­one ask­ing for per­son­al or finan­cial infor­ma­tion. If you ask for details in writ­ing, all that requires is pro­vid­ing an address.

“No mat­ter how good the deal sounds, if they’re seri­ous, they’ll pro­vide that infor­ma­tion in writ­ing. But more often than not, if you’re not expect­ing it, it’s prob­a­bly a scam,” says McAlum.


Check for New Activity

“If there are funds that are dis­ap­pear­ing from accounts, bills going unpaid or things dis­ap­pear­ing from the house, that could be a sign that the loved one is con­fused about their finances or it could mean there’s anoth­er per­son in the pic­ture,” says McAlum. Also look for changes in the grandparent’s spend­ing habits or an unwill­ing­ness to talk about money.

Be sus­pi­cious of new peo­ple in your grand­par­ents’ life. “It’s not to say everyone’s inten­tion is evil, but you’ve got to be very vig­i­lant about who’s involved in that person’s life, espe­cial­ly if you see pow­er of attor­ney changes, names added to bank accounts, updat­ing wills, refi­nanc­ing mort­gages — those are real­ly big red flags.”


Create Checks and Balances

When it comes to main­tain­ing an elder­ly person’s finances, it’s good to have back up.

“Have anoth­er set of eyes look over every­thing to pro­tect the loved one’s assets,” says McAlum. When senior cit­i­zens begin to lose their inde­pen­dence in oth­er aspects of their life, that’s when they can be very sus­cep­ti­ble and vul­ner­a­ble to exploitation.

Many peo­ple are uncom­fort­able talk­ing about mon­ey and it’s best to be sen­si­tive dur­ing this dis­cus­sion. “Talk about turn­ing over the finances to a trust­ed fam­i­ly mem­ber — that’s the opti­mum route, but there’s a huge trust piece,” says McNeill. Con­sid­er putting your grandparent’s assets in an envi­ron­ment where they can’t give any­thing away on a whim, she says, like a trust or a dual-sig­na­ture account.

“Since every sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent, try to work through a fam­i­ly doc­tor, cler­gy mem­ber or a trust­ed friend,” advis­es McAlum. “If someone’s cog­nizant skills are dete­ri­o­rat­ing, you might have to work through a more legal­ized approach to estab­lish a guardianship.”

Experts advise tak­ing advan­tage of the resources avail­able on web­sites like the Nation­al Coun­cil on AgingAARP, and theCon­sumer Finan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau.


Buy a Shredder

“The best secu­ri­ty tool you can have in your arse­nal is a shred­der,” says McAlum. Have them shred any­thing they receive in the mail that might have preap­proved loan paper­work and requires them to fill in information.

Install Security Software

The elder­ly are becom­ing more active online, and that’s every scammer’s dream. It’s easy to attach mal­ware to emails or include fake links in a message.

“Have basic secu­ri­ty soft­ware and antivirus installed on com­put­ers and lap­tops if they’re online a lot,” says McAlum.


Join the ‘Do Not Call’ List

A phone is anoth­er way for a fraud­ster to take advan­tage of an elder­ly per­son, says McAlum, so take away the threat by adding a grandparent’s num­ber to “Do Not Call” lists at

“Any­one who’s call­ing you with a great deal, it’s not legit­i­mate,” says McAlum, “and if they’re claim­ing to be your bank, hang up and call your bank back at a num­ber you know.”


Monitor Credit and Accounts

It’s impor­tant to check grandparent’s cred­it report and accounts fre­quent­ly, accord­ing to James Sim­mons, direc­tor of Fraud Detec­tion and Pre­ven­tion at Cap­i­tal One. “Look at state­ments to make sure every­thing is cor­rect. The con­sumer needs to be an active participant.”

Fam­i­ly mem­bers should also be on the look­out for red flags like new peo­ple becom­ing inter­est­ed in your grandparent’s finances, a grand­par­ent sud­den­ly liv­ing beyond his/her means or a lack of knowl­edge about finances. “Hav­ing fam­i­ly mem­bers help mon­i­tor the elderly’s finances is a great thing, as is encour­ag­ing the elder­ly to reg­u­lar­ly man­age their finances so they can look for red flags,” says Simmons.


Inform Law Enforcement

“If you feel that you’re the vic­tim of a scam, tell some­one, and if they don’t have some­one in their cir­cle, they can always call law enforce­ment,” says McAlum.


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