Scam artists have found new ways to target older adults. They know that many adults over 60 don’t feel the need to follow all the latest tech trends, and they use that knowledge to exploit seniors in a variety of ways.
They also know that older adults are more likely to be experiencing the recent loss of loved ones and be struggling with the onset of new physical, emotional, or mental challenges. Perhaps most enticing is the fact that many adults over the age of 60 have accumulated wealth and are considering investment options and charitable causes.
Consider These Questions Before Committing Your Funds
The following questions indicate that an investment scheme or philanthropic request is likely just a cover-up for a scam. If you answer “yes” to one or more of the following, it is a good idea to stop and investigate thoroughly before proceeding any further.
- Are you being asked to pay money now to receive more money in the future?
While all investments operate this way to a certain degree, you need to be very certain an investment is legitimate. No legitimate investment can promise the certainty of a large return. Anyone who does is probably a scam artist. For instance, fixed annuities can provide a guaranteed return, but the return will be modest. Indexed or variable annuities can provide a high rate of return—but they can also lose money so there is no guarantee. Whether you are buying an annuity or investing in some other plan, make sure you know all the details and risks, and that the company you’re working with is legitimate.
- Is the request for funds urgent?
If you’re being rushed to provide money right away, you can usually assume the request is a scam. If the person making the request professes to be from a company you know, try calling their main number to see what they can tell you about this rush opportunity. If the request is supposedly transmitted on behalf of a friend or family member, talk to that person yourself before sending any money. Even if the phone number that appears on your caller ID seems to match the right number, scammers have ways to impersonate phone identification. Call back yourself to ascertain the validity.
- Does the method of payment allow for recovery?
Scam artists often ask for payment through means that are difficult to recover. If you pay for something by credit card, for instance, you can get a charge reversed. If you pay with a gift card, cash, or bitcoin, however, it is not easy to get your money back.
- Is someone unexpectedly claiming you owe them money?
Another common scam is to threaten collection action on a fake debt. The scammer may claim that the debt was incurred by another family member a long time ago and that fees have accumulated. Before paying or giving out any information, talk to your financial advisor or elder law attorney to see whether they can help you determine if the request is valid.
It is essential to be on the watch for fraudulent activity, especially if you have ever fallen victim to a scam artist in the past. They often share information or try to repeatedly victimize the same individuals through different schemes.
Report any scam attempts or incidents to the local police and outlets such as state, local, or federal consumer hotlines. The Federal Trade Commission, for instance, has a reporting service on its website called ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Be sure to change user names and passwords for your online accounts. If you get repeated contact from scammers, you may want to change your email address and phone number.
Sawyer & Sawyer is Here to Help
Elder fraud is a growing concern, and we want to help older adults protect their livelihoods. To talk to the team at Sawyer & Sawyer about steps we can help you take to preserve and protect your assets, contact us today.