Financial education and money management go hand in hand. Protect yourself and your clients by empowering them with financial literacy. April is Financial Literacy Month, and in recognition, the National Council on Aging published an article that highlights eight tips for older adults to protect themselves from money scams.
Millions of older adults fall prey to financial scams every year. Use these tips from NCOA and the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement to protect yourself or an older adult you know.
Be aware that you are at risk from strangers—and those closest to you.
An older adult’s family members perpetrate over 90% of all reported elder abuse, most often their adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and others. Common tactics include:
- depleting a joint checking account,
- promising but not delivering care in exchange for money or property,
- outright theft,
- and other forms of abuse, including physical abuse,
- intimidation, and
- neglect of basic care needs.
Everyone is at risk of financial abuse, even people without high incomes or assets. Understand the top 10 most common scams targeting older adults, improving financial literacy, so you can spot one before it’s too late.
Don’t isolate yourself—stay involved.
Isolation is a tremendous risk factor for elder abuse. Some older adults self-isolate by withdrawing from the larger community. Others are isolated because they lose the ability to drive, see, or walk about independently.
Some older adults fear being victimized by purse snatchings and muggings if they venture out. Most family violence only occurs behind closed doors, and elder abuse is no exception.
Send me something in writing.
Tell solicitors: “I never buy from (or give to) anyone who calls or visits me unannounced. Don’t buy from an unfamiliar company. Always ask for and wait until you receive written material about any offer or charity.
Neighborhood children who are selling Girl Scout cookies or school fundraising items may be an exception. A good rule of thumb is never to donate if it requires you to write your credit card information on any forms.
It is also good practice to obtain a salesperson’s name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address, and business license number before you transact business. And remember, always take your time in making a financial decision.
Shred all receipts with your credit card number
Identity theft is a huge business. To protect your financial future, invest in a paper shredder. Monitor your bank and credit card statements. Additionally, never give out personal information over the phone to someone who initiates the contact with you.
Sign up for the “Do Not Call” list and take yourself off multiple mailing lists
Be careful with your mail. Do not let incoming mail sit in your mailbox for a long time. Consider dropping it off at a secure collection box or directly at the post office when sending out sensitive mail. Then, visit Do Not Call to stop telemarketers from contacting you.
Regularly monitor your credit ratings and check on any unusual or incorrect information at AnnualCreditReport.com. In addition, to get more tips on protecting yourself from fraud, visit On Guard Online. This site has interactive games to help you be a wiser consumer on issues related to spyware, lottery scams, and other frauds.
Use direct deposit
Without a doubt, using direct deposit helps prevent checks from being stolen from the mailbox. Clever scammers or even scrupulous loved ones steal benefits checks right out of mailboxes or from older adults’ homes if they are lying around. Using direct deposit ensures that checks go right into your accounts and are protected.
Never give your credit card, banking, Social Security, Medicare, or other personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
Misuse of Medicare dollars is one of the largest scams involving older adults. These include invoicing for services never rendered and selling unused equipment or services to the recipient. Equally protect your Medicare number as you do your credit card, banking, and Social Security numbers, and do not allow anyone else to use it.
Be wary of salespeople trying to sell you something they claim will be paid for by Medicare. Also, review your Medicare statements to ensure you have received the services billed and report suspicious activities to 1-800-MEDICARE.
Read the entire contract.
Carefully read all contracts and purchasing agreements before signing and ensure that all requirements are in writing. As well as understand all contract cancellation and refund terms. As a general rule, do not allow pressure to be the deciding factor in making purchases, signing contracts, or committing funds.
Furthermore, these decisions are yours and yours alone; however, you don’t have to go it alone. There is help. Protect yourself and your clients by empowering them with financial literacy. Remember:
- Especially, be skeptical of all unsolicited offers and thoroughly do your research.
- Also, be an informed consumer.
- Take the time to call and shop around before making a purchase.
- Furthermore, take a friend who may offer some perspective to help you make difficult decisions.