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» Senior Scams: Keeping Your Elderly Loved Ones Safe

Financial exploitation of seniors is a growing problem and often goes unreported. Many seniors are embarrassed to report scams or exploitation and fear losing independence if they admit they have been victimized. All too often, family members are the exploiters (Florida elder exploitation statistics indicate about 27% of cases were committed by a son or daughter.)

Some common Florida elderly scams and abuses include:

• Durable Power of Attorney Misuse
• Identity Theft
• Imposter Fraud
• Moving Scams
• Investment Fraud
• Annuity Fraud
• Home Repair Scams
• Charity Fraud
• Telemarketing or sweepstakes Fraud

Some examples of scams that are frequently targeted to elderly individuals living at home alone include: excessive or unnecessary home repair work or devices (water softeners for example) or work paid for but not completed; sweepstakes and lottery scams; “fishing” for personal information over the phone or email for identity theft purposes; distraction techniques (coming in to the home for a stated purpose and stealing items while the person is distracted).

Reducing social isolation and having trusted parties checking in on someone as they age can help reduce the likelihood of being a victim of a scam, or assist in quickly identifying concerns and stopping any ongoing fraud.

Resources for elder exploitation:

Safeguard Our Seniors http://www.flseniors.net/
National Center on Elder Abuse http://www.ncea.aoa.gov
Florida Abuse Hotline: 1-800-96ABUSE
Florida Elder Help Line : 1-800-96ELDER

Additional senior safety tips:

• Elders should talk with legal and financial advisors about how to prepare for aging and possible incapacity-what legal documents are needed, how to set up financial accounts and especially share any concerns about family members or family conflicts to be taken in to consideration when planning.
• Open conversations about wishes, paying for care, priorities and beliefs help families to better handle their loved one’s needs and possibly to be more aware of changes in patterns. A neutral party may help in facilitating these conversations.
• Families at a distance should consider having a trusted party(ies) to check in on a loved one who lives alone. A geriatric care manager can visit to provide some oversight and help to pick up on any changes that might be cause for concern.
• Always check out any parties hired to do work for an elder. It is best to use reputable companies/licensed agencies or providers. You can at least check to ensure it is a legitimate business and does not have a history of complaints. Talk to your loved one about some of the common scams and remind them that they should not hire unknown parties or let individuals in to the home.
• For in-home care in Florida, use a licensed home care agency which must adhere to state-required rules and standards. If your loved one has private caregivers, see our handout Caregiver Concerns to learn more and be aware of signs that might be red flags.
• Professional advisors can help families by being aware of major changes or red flags. In discussing future planning, discuss procedures and options if the professional has concerns and seek to open communications between family members. Help clients with alternatives and protective measures when family conflict exists or there is a concern raised about a particular family member. Be aware of mandatory reporting statutes and report possible abuse to the state hotline.

We’re here to help if you have concerns or questions about help for elderly loved ones in Florida. Contact Aging Wisely for elder advice, geriatric care management assessments, family caregiver consultations.

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