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Ways to Combat Financial Crimes Against Seniors

Ways to Combat Financial Crimes Against Seniors


As our society progresses into the digital age, senior citizens are finding themselves increasingly targeted by financial scams. Whether it’s through deceptive phone calls, fraudulent emails or sophisticated online productions, older adults are often seen as easy prey for scammers looking to exploit their trust and vulnerability. However, there are ways that friends and family continue protecting seniors from scams through proactive collaboration.


The consequences of falling victim to these scams can be financially and emotionally devastating, misleading seniors to give up their hard-earned savings and leaving them feeling isolated and betrayed. This financial deception can have long-term consequences on seniors who have been scammed.


In this blog, we’ll explore the prevalence of financial fraud cases targeting seniors, the tactics used by scammers and most importantly, how we can work together to protect elderly loved ones from falling victim to crimes against seniors.


Common Types of Financial Deception


Retirement scams result in a loss of more than $28 billion each year in the United States. Senior identity theft scams come in a variety of forms, such as identity theft, sweepstakes and lottery scams, and romance scams. Many scams come to senior citizens unsolicited – a scammer calls or sends correspondence unprompted and uses a sense of urgency before seniors realize they have been taken advantage of.


One of the most common financial crimes against the elderly involves sweepstakes or lottery scams – informing them that they have received an unexpected windfall and must act immediately to ensure that they receive the winnings. This tactic is often to secure money through gift card purchases or to access bank accounts or debit cards.


The lure of romance scams


In 2020, romance scams accounted for the highest total reported losses among all scams reported to the Federal Trade Commission. Older adults are especially susceptible to romance scams, as the number of adults ages 55-64 who reported participating in online dating applications has doubled over the last few years. In 2020, seniors lost more than $139 million in relationship scams alone.


Seniors are often at risk for isolation, loneliness and depression, and romance scams may present a new opportunity for a connection. People perpetrating these scams know the touchpoints to engage seniors in romantic interludes. Utilizing flattery and compliments makes victims feel special, lowering their defenses and making them more susceptible to the sales pitch (or scam).


Scammers work to establish trust quickly, and then a sense of urgency emerges – suddenly, the person on the other end of the phone needs a quick loan, or they are stranded and need to get home. These moments are the perfect opportunities for scammers to pounce on unsuspecting victims.

Retirement scams are often rooted in false promises – something that you will see throughout many crimes against seniors. Scammers prey on the basic needs and desires of every human – the opportunity for more money or a late-in-life love. Seniors may lack technological familiarity and be susceptible to scams that prey on their trust. Because seniors do not navigate technology as younger generations do, they can be more vulnerable when a scammer presents themselves as an authority figure, such as a police officer or government official requesting information.


Recognizing and Avoiding Financial Scams


To protect loved ones against scams, have a conversation with them so that they know what kind of red flags to notice. Crimes against the elderly happen fairly quickly, based on a sense of urgency and misplaced trust.


One of the first red flags to consider is that unsolicited phone calls or emails should be treated with extreme caution. If it sounds too good to be true, it often is. Many people get caught up in the “get rich quick” ideas that scammers often present. Seniors should watch out for these surprise offers and always verify the identity of callers when contacted. Scammers do not want to answer questions; they just want to take advantage of seniors. As soon as you try to uncover the truth, the scammer will often end the communication.


Do not release personal information to people you do not know


In addition, anyone who contacts you and requests personal information should also be thoroughly vetted for the need for that particular information. Businesses and organizations such as banks and the IRS have safety protocols in place to protect sensitive information, so they will not call you to request your account information directly. It’s already known to them if you are a customer. Do not release this information, including bank account numbers, debit card numbers and PINs. This type of financial identity fraud is one of the easiest ways for scammers to access seniors’ assets.


Do not send money to people you don’t personally know

Further protect yourself by not transferring or wiring money through financial services such as Western Union, which can be used worldwide. You may not be completely aware of who you are paying. Even more, seniors have fallen prey to losing an additional $12 million each year through cryptocurrency scams. Cryptocurrency is a relatively new form of payment that can be confusing if you are not familiar with it, and it can also be used worldwide. Once it’s been paid, there is no recourse to get it back.


Be cautious of high-pressure sales tactics


Life in 2024 moves very quickly, but beware of high-urgency tactics, such limited-time offers or limited quantities, which lowers seniors’ guards when it comes to taking the time to consider the proposition. During this time, scammers may brush off or diminish older adults’ objections or questions, pressing for an immediate resolution to the offer, which often includes accessing financial information.


Ask for help from trusted professionals and close family members


Many seniors do not report scam attempts or money loss because of embarrassment. When looking back after you have been scammed, the concerning red flags may be easier to see after you are out of the situation. If you have questions about the validity of an offer, purchase or unexpected romance, consult with trusted family members or financial advisors before releasing information or exchanging money.


Family members should offer comfort and emotional assistance after loved ones have been scammed. It is often an embarrassing stigma to realize you have been scammed, paired with the personal financial deception as well. Friends and family members should lend an understanding ear and continue conversations and education to prevent further scams.


Resources and reporting


For elderly fraud protection and ongoing scams, The National Elder Fraud Hotline staffs compassionate and knowledgeable support specialists who can help older adults navigate the confusion and loss after fraud. This free service is available to all senior citizens and can be a valuable resource.


When calling the Elder Fraud Hotline, seniors will reach a case manager who will help them through the reporting process at the federal, state and local levels. They will also be connected with other resources on a case-by-case basis.


Additionally, protect yourself by investing in financial fraud prevention services. Research the best identity theft protection for seniors and make the decision that is right for your family.


Attend locally hosted events from banks, nonprofit organizations and our Anthology communities such as Anthology of King of Prussia, Anthology of Millis and Anthology of Farmington Hills, which host scam prevention discussions and offer resources for residents to protect themselves from crimes against seniors.


In conclusion, as we navigate the increasingly complex landscape of financial scams targeting the elderly, one of the most powerful tools at our disposal is continuing education. By empowering seniors with knowledge about common scams, red flags to watch for and strategies to protect themselves, we not only enhance their financial literacy but also bolster their ability to safeguard their hard-earned assets.


As advocates for the well-being of our senior loved ones and community members, Anthology communities commit to providing ongoing education and support. Through collaboration and knowledge, we can help ensure that our residents remain vigilant, informed and resilient against financial exploitation.


If you are interested in support and continuing education from our team at Anthology Senior Living, please click to explore neighborhoods in your area or contact us.