Scam Safety for Seniors: Tips to Help Avoid (or Report) Financial Abuse

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When scammers are searching for victims, they often look to seniors. That’s often because older individuals have likely built savings and have retirement funds, and they can become vulnerable to threats of service discontinuations or claims of account trouble. Criminals are aggressive and relentless, as they want to cause confusion or emotional responses without questioning any request for money. Besides closely monitoring your financial accounts, be wary of scams where people demand money via a wire transfer or prepaid bank card and threatening you with service cutoffs or fines unless you pay immediately.

Related: Start With Skepticism: Beware The Account Update Scam

Proactive Protection to Help Seniors

To help keep yourself or your loved ones safe, there are some proactive steps to be more protected against scammers:

1. Keep a close eye on financial accounts. With services like online or mobile banking, setting up notification alerts can help you be more aware of any abnormal activity. If you notice anything strange, it’s important to call the toll-free number on the back of your bank card or the official number of your bank branch as soon as possible and explain what you noticed. Need help getting started? Check out Fidelity Bank’s digital services that are included with our personal checking and savings accounts.

2. When possible, set up direct deposits and automatic payments. Think about paying with credit cards or debit cards instead of cash or checks, as there is more protection available. Learn more about the difference between credit and debit cards.

3. If you begin using new digital payment technology like peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps, make sure you understand how they work and only send to family and friends you know and trust.

4. Be wary of any unsolicited phone call, email or text message that demands money or promises wealth.

5. Lock up or hide your checkbook, bank statements, cash or other important documents if other people will be in your home.

6. Talk to your banker, financial advisor, attorney, a trusted family member or friend if you have questions about financial issues.

Don’t Be a Victim: Quick Tips

Being a victim of scams is terrible. For elderly victims, it can be devastating. Years of savings and hard work can be wiped away, leading to a loss of financial stability or worse. Here are additional tips to keep in mind to keep your information and money safe:

  • DON’T click on links in emails or texts if you are unsure of the sender
  • DON’T download any attachments from email if you don’t know who sent it
  • DON’T call back numbers from suspicious texts, voice messages or emails — look up the official business or government agency number and call that instead
  • DON’T feel pressured to make snap financial decisions
  • DON’T give out personal information like account numbers or your Social Security number
  • DON’T panic if someone calls and threatens to close accounts or cut off services — call the company back directly at their official number and ask for information

Being cautious can keep your money and information safe from crooks.

Spot Warning Signs & Report Abuse

If you see or suspect financial abuse of older loved ones, you should report it to protect their safety and even their health. Reporting this kind of abuse can take courage because it may require naming a family member or a friend as the suspect. The financial abuse could involve theft, fraud or various scams designed to take an elderly person’s money or property. There’s a real threat that the senior’s checking and/or savings account can be wiped out completely or drained a little at a time.

Warning signs that could indicate financial abuse include:

  • Unpaid bills piling up
  • Utilities being cut off
  • The disappearance of cash, jewelry or other items
  • Concerns about how people are handling an elderly person’s finances
  • Unexplained expenditures
  • Contractors making suspicious claims

If you suspect financial abuse, talk to the elderly person to see if you can learn more and let them know that you are concerned for their well-being.

While the reporting process can vary by state, you should report suspected abuse to local law enforcement and your local Adult Protective Services agency. If you know where the person does their banking, you should report your concerns there as well. When making a report, you should name the elderly person, list her or his address, name the suspected abuser, and note what you believe is happening. The more information you can supply about the situation, the better.

If you think you might be an elder financial abuse victim, contact your bank and file a report with your local law enforcement agency. Let your local or state adult protective service agency know what happened, too.

For additional tips about staying safe from scams, check out our webpage:


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