Protecting a Senior from Identity Theft and Financial Scams

Seniors can become financial victims in many ways. Experts estimate the total losses to be more than 3 billion euros per year. So how can you help protect your parents' finances if they live in an assisted living facility?

How vulnerable are seniors to financial scams and identity theft?

Seniors are among the most vulnerable targets of identity theft and financial fraud. They often have substantial accumulated assets and strong credit histories, but little understanding of personal finance, digital banking or direct involvement in their own finances, making them a prime target.

Assuming an adult child receives copies of their returns, what should they watch out for?

If an adult child is helping or overseeing an elderly parent's finances, they should be watching for the same things they are. Are there bills they don't recognize? Are there charges on billing statements that are not accounted for and checking and other accounts are properly reconciled? Have collection accounts suddenly started coming in from unknown lenders? They should also check all medical bills for incorrect charges or treatment that was not provided. Are payments from pension funds, other retirement funds and the Social Security Administration coming in on time or not at all, and if so, are the payments the correct amount?

What are the most common identity fraud scams that seniors face?

Unfortunately, older adults are particularly vulnerable to fraud from caregivers, friends, and family members. They are also more frequently victims of digital fraud, such as phishing, because they lack experience with online activity. Older adults may also be more susceptible to medical fraud, especially insurance scams, because they often have a greater and more frequent need for medical care.

Some seniors have quite complicated financial affairs. Should you encourage them to simplify as they age?

It's a good idea to review your financial resources at any age, but especially for seniors. Reviewing their credit report can reveal open accounts that have been overlooked. It's easy to put a credit card in a drawer and forget all about it. Unused accounts can be a source of fraud, so closing them can help reduce that risk. Reducing the number of accounts you have can help you protect them more easily.

Many older people are not very Internet savvy. Does this make them more susceptible to identity theft and other financial scams?

In today's world of digital banking, email and social media, seniors are especially at risk. They may not understand the risk associated with sharing sensitive information online, recognize fake websites or realize that emails can use social engineering to obtain account numbers or passwords.

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