One of the most terrible crimes, in my opinion, is when fraudsters focus on seniors.  According to a 2017 CNBC article, one in 18 older adults fall prey to financial abuse each year.  We would all like to believe it will never happen to us or someone we know, but senior financial abuse is on the rise. 

Most fraudsters do not have age barriers, are not limited to people who shop online, and do not only target people with bank accounts; however, seniors are particularly vulnerable.  Fraud attempts strike when you least expect it, so it is best to always be informed about ways you can be targeted and tips for avoiding fraudulent activity from happening to you. 

For example, be cautious if you get a call from “the police,” the “IRS,” or “your utility company” threatening that you will be arrested or your power will be shut off if you do not pay a fine or bill.  The caller may ask you to purchase gift cards, such as iTunes or Amazon gift cards, and they will call you back to get the card numbers.  Please be aware, this is a scam.  In a situation like this, the fraudster immediately has the funds withdrawn from the card – most likely while you are still on the phone.  Avoid losing your money – just disconnect the call.  Furthermore, the IRS does not make calls to taxpayers.

Another common scam is the “Grandparent” scam.  A fraudster calls claiming to be your grandchild.  When you question who they are they may tell you they have been in an accident and that is why they do not sound like themselves.  If you receive a call like this, ask the caller questions that only your grandchild would know, but do not disclose any personal information.  If they cannot answer the questions – disconnect the call.  The fraudster may ask you to send a Western Union or bank wire so they can pay a bill or a fine.  Before sending any money, call your grandchild or the grandchild’s parent to see if they indeed called you.  Remember, once you send the funds the fraudster will immediately pick it up from Western Union and your money is gone. 

Online dating can be fun, and in the right circumstance a good way to meet new people.  However, it can also be an outlet for fraudsters.  People pose as boyfriends and girlfriends in order to earn your trust.  If this person begins asking you for money that they can repay when they come to see you, they are more than likely trying to scam you.  Remember, once you have sent this person money you may not get it back.  Elderly adults are oftentimes the target of this scam because they tend to have more free time, which can make them feel lonely.

Free trials have become very popular on television and online.  Companies promise you can try their product for 30 days risk-free and return it for a full refund.  Be very cautious and read the fine print.  Many of these trials come with other products buried in the offer that are not included in the free trial.  They also require your Debit or Credit card for the free trial, which allows them to automatically bill you for recurring product shipments.

While scammers are normally strangers, financial exploitation also occurs when family members, friends, or caregivers try to convince you to give them money.  They may make it known that they are the only person helping you and if you want them to continue helping you, you need to give them money.  If you are feeling pressured or forced to turn over money, it is considered financial exploitation.  Please keep in mind that most people that care for the elderly have good intentions, but unfortunately that is not always the case.

If you would like to learn more about common scams and financial exploitation, please join us Tuesday, October 1st at 3:00 p.m. CT for CEFCU’s next SeniorCents Financial Abuse Prevention Seminar at CEFCU’s Corporate Office, 5401 W. Dirksen Parkway, Peoria. The presentation will be followed by a lite dinner.  Please RSVP to 309-633-3767.