Elderly Woman Answering a Scam Phone CallYour elderly parent or grandparent may be relatively independent, but that does not mean they are safe from scams that prey on older people. If they have a phone and access to the internet, they will likely be targeted by con artists looking to take advantage of them because they are seniors. However, there are some easy ways to protect your loved one from these crooks.

How to Help an Older Adult Avoid Being a Victim

Scam artists figured out a long time ago that older Americans are prime targets because they tend to have assets and can be overly trusting. With the right message, scammers can talk an older person into forking over their life savings bit by bit. Official-looking letters, urgent-sounding phone calls, and unsolicited emails can convince a vulnerable person that they owe money or that someone needs their help. If there are older people in your life who might fall for these kinds of scams, there are a few things you can do to protect them without offending them or making them feel defensive.

  • Help control the mail. While less common than other methods these days, some con artists still send letters that look like they are coming from an official source, such as the county clerk’s office. If you take steps to remove your parent’s name from junk mail and credit card mailing lists, you can significantly reduce the amount of mail they get. Glancing through their mail when you visit is another way to weed out suspicious offers and requests.
  • Monitor their social media. It’s kind of cool that Grandma and Grandpa are on Facebook, but this is a growing area for scammers to find victims. By helping them with privacy settings, showing them how to block followers, and teaching them that not everything they read is real, you can lower the risk that they will be a target.
  • Make sure they understand their cell phone. Helping mom or dad set up their contacts and discouraging them from answering calls from unknown numbers can prevent a lot of trouble. Explain to them that if they miss an important call, there will be a voicemail message. Make sure they know how to see who is calling and how to check their voicemail.
  • Use blocking features and filters. You can take phone protection a step further by installing a blocking app that will weed out unwanted calls. You can also set up filters on their email accounts that sort messages into spam and promotions files, which might prevent them from opening a phishing email.
  • Teach the basics. You should also make sure they understand that they might be targeted, so they should be very cautious about how they respond to requests for money. Tell them to never give out personal information over the phone or in an email message and to confirm the identity of people claiming to be family members.

One final word of caution. Unfortunately, a common scam targeting the elderly is for unqualified people to offer assistance (for a price, of course) with Medicare, Medicaid, or Veterans benefits. The only people who can legally help with these services are people who are authorized to do so, such as a licensed Elder Law attorney. If you have any questions about helping your elderly loved one protect their assets, contact Ross & Shoalmire PLLC today.