It is no great secret that scams are becoming more and more common, and that certain demographics are more heavily targeted than others. At the top of this list, sadly, are senior citizens. Due to a higher likelihood of mental decline, financial stability, and social isolation, senior citizens are the primary target for many scammers. Fortunately, many of these scams can be prevented by an eagle-eyed family member or friend. Here are a few things you can do to help keep your elderly friends and family safe.
Earn Their Trust
The first and most important step in keeping your older loved ones safe is to ensure that you have their trust. While this might seem like an obvious part of the process, it can involve more than one might expect. This trust should involve not only sharing details about their finances, if necessary, but also trust that if they become a victim of a scam, they will not be judged or chastised. You want to ensure that the person you care about feels safe and able to be vulnerable around you so that if something bad happens, they’ll be comfortable coming to you for help.
Trust is valuable, but if you are not involved in their day-to-day life, they may not reach out to you if something happens. If you are up to date with their lives and what is going on, you are far more likely to hear about anything that has gone wrong.
Additionally, there may be instances in which your loved one does not know that they are being scammed. If you’re speaking regularly, they may mention something that can clue you in to the situation, which brings us to our next point.
Be aware of the various scams that target the elderly so that you know what to keep an eye out for. Romance scams, grandparent or “family” scams, and IRS or Social Security scams are all prevalent. Knowing how these scams work and what the telltale signs are can help you catch on before any financial losses occur.
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Have the Conversation
The hardest part of keeping your elderly loved ones safe can be telling them that they have been the victim of a scam. Being tricked or having your trust broken is a terrible feeling, and it can be very difficult to be the bearer of that bad news. If you have made sure that your loved one trusts you, you have been involved in their life, and you are up to date on the various scams that they could fall victim to, your concerns are much more likely to be taken seriously.
It is imperative that your message gets across so that the scam can be stopped as quickly as possible, but it is also important to understand that there may be pushback, confusion, or even anger on the part of the victim. Something that can be helpful for dealing with this is the “explanation approach.”
- Rather than telling the victim, “You’ve been scammed,” try softer language like, “That sounds like it could possibly be a scam.”
- Next, ask them to explain how it isn’t a scam. It is likely that the individual is being put under at least a little duress by the scammer. By getting them to slow down and take the time to think carefully about the situation, they may be able to realize on their own (with a little guidance from you) that they are falling victim to a scam.
- Simply guide the conversation by asking questions about the situation they have told you about: Would the IRS really ask to be paid in VISA gift cards? Is it likely that their grandson traveled internationally without telling anyone, got arrested, and now needs bail money?
These scams are designed to be just believable enough to be possible, but with the added pressure of a deadline so the potential victim has no time to think critically. By starting the conversation and asking the right questions, you can lead them to the realization that you have already come to: they are being scammed.
Keep Everyone Safe
With elderly individuals being the most common target and victim of financial scams, it is of great importance that their close friends and family do their part to help keep them safe. By keeping their trust, staying involved, and being willing to have the difficult conversations, you are doing your part to keep them safe and comfortable with their money. You can even learn a thing or two about how to keep your own finances safe as well.
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