As much as Florida is the land of sunshine and beautiful beaches, it can also lay claim to being the top spot for fraud and identity theft (per the Federal Trade Commission).
Unfortunately, many scammers target the elderly as a recent WMNF Tampa radio show pointed out. Scammers prey on the trusting nature of many elders as well as fear and intimidation. The scams are constantly evolving and often target common services and products used amongst elders. Water filtration systems and other items for the household have often been targeted, convincing the person to buy something they don’t need or something at an astronomical price or taking a deposit for work which is never completed. Medicare and other official sounding programs are often used as a means of fraud and identity theft. There have been numerous scams “phishing” for information in order to steal personal/financial information or obtain someone’s identity. Targeting seniors, this has often been done under the guise of Medicare.
One of the most difficult aspects of fraud targeting seniors is that it is often perpetrated by a trusted person. Family members are the top source of financial abuse and other neighbors, friends and caretakers may also take advantage of their relationship to begin financially abusing the situation.
Some things you might notice in an elder loved one which could indicate financial abuse or being the victim of scams:
- Worrying about finances, having unanticipated financial problems.
- Unexplained purchases, missing cash or valuables.
- Difficulty explaining purchases or confusion over a purchase or service contract; excessive repairs or items being purchased for the home.
- Giving financial control to a new caregiver, neighbor or friend.
- Fear or intimidation signals (mentioning, for example, that the daughter who helps out “doesn’t want me to talk about that” or doesn’t allow the elder to see the checkbook any longer or review accounts).
Financial elder abuse and scams can be very difficult to prevent or even resolve. Often elders will not report the abuse and feel embarrassed over the situation. There may be a level of intimidation and control that is hard to break through. Here are some steps we think can help, though, in overall safeguarding for elders and resources to help:
- Regularly evaluate how things are going for your loved one. Hire a geriatric care manager to help you keep an eye on things from a distance, get a periodic evaluation and check in with calls and in-person visits. Continual communication can help you spot issues, as well as give your loved one opportunities to mention concerns. A professional assessment (and ongoing evaluations) can help determine when it may be necessary to assist with managing finances and household maintenance. Contact us to learn more about geriatric assessments and other eldercare assistance services.
- Share information about popular scams with your loved one and educate on issues such as giving out personal information.
- Help set up a dignified “out” for solicitations. Perhaps your loved one can say they have their “advisor” review everything before they make decisions (whether that really is some type of professional advisor, or running it by you). You might even suggest/share that you do the same yourself, as it is easy for anyone to get caught up in scams and some time to think about purchases and decisions helps.
- Determine ways to simplify finances and possibly consider a system for oversight (regular review/access by a trusted professional or family member).
You might also want to check out our resources: Senior Safety Warning Signs and Caregiver Concerns and Florida Attorney General’s Protecting Florida’s Seniors page (with various resources and hotlines included). Reach out to Aging Wisely’s Senior Care Consultant if you spot concerns or want to find out how we can help. We offer caregiver consultations and an array of services for Florida seniors in the Tampa Bay area.