Financial scams are as old as time, and the technology age has helped them spread faster than ever. Unfortunately, seniors are particularly at risk, losing billions of dollars each year to fraudsters.
Most people think scams are perpetrated by strangers, but sadly, financial exploitation often comes from people known to the victim, including friends, family, and caretakers. Another misconception is that only wealthy individuals are targeted. In reality, seniors of every income bracket fall victim to fraud.
Older individuals are often targeted because they have spent their lives accumulating wealth, and their nest egg is a magnet to thieves. Additionally, declining cognitive ability and increasing physical limitations may make seniors dependent upon others to manage their finances. Many older adults do not report that they have been cheated because they fear their competence will be called into question. This reluctance of seniors to report scams makes them an even more attractive target.
So what can you do to protect yourself falling victim to a scam?
First, plan for your future. Everyone should have an estate plan, including a financial power of attorney. Take the time to consider who you trust to take charge of your finances in the event that you become unable to do so. Establish relationships with professionals such as financial advisors and accountants, who are impartial and trained to look after your best interests.
It also helps to stay connected to your friends and family. Social isolation has been linked to financial exploitation of seniors.
Finally, you should be aware of the most common scams. One good resource is the National Council on Aging’s “Top 10 Financial Scams Targeting Seniors.” The more familiar you are with scammers’ ruses and ploys, the less likely you are to become their victim.