My 80-year old mother has been managing her finances on her own since my father passed three years ago. We often go over and help her with maintenance and housekeeping, but it’s important to her to be in control and independent.
I recently discovered that my mother was the victim of a telephone scam about five months ago. Someone called her pretending to be one of her grandsons who was away at college. The scammer told my mother he was in trouble and needed money wired to him immediately. My mom fell for it and sent him a significant amount of her savings.
After she realized what had happened, she kept it to herself. We only just figured out what happened because she delayed having a new roof put on her house. She said she was a little short of money even though I knew she shouldn’t be.
I called the local police and they came out and filed a report. But because so much time has passed, they aren’t very confident they will be able to track these guys down.
I don’t understand why my mom wouldn’t tell us. And I’m not sure how we can keep this from happening again.
Why Seniors Don’t Report Being a Victim of Fraud
Dear Leigh Ann:
I’m so sorry to hear about your mother’s situation! Our seniors are often targeted for scams and fraud for many reasons.
Sometimes it is because an older adult lives with a chronic health condition that makes it more difficult to keep up with home maintenance and repairs. As a result, they may have to turn to strangers for assistance. Roofing, windows and driveway sealing are three areas where seniors are often the victims of a scam.
Loneliness may also put them at risk. Because an older adult may live alone and feel isolated, they might be more willing to spend time on the phone with someone they don’t know. It puts them at higher risk for becoming the victim of a telemarketing scam.
And the grandparent scam your mother was the victim of is becoming increasingly common. It plays on the very special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.
AARP estimates that as many as 20% of our nation’s seniors have been the victim of some type of fraud. That number is considered to be low since many older adults, like your mother, are just too embarrassed to admit they have fallen victim to a scam.
Seniors also fail to report these crimes because they fear their families will think they are incapable of making their own decisions or that they will cause their children to worry about them.
A few tips we share with older adults near Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan are ones you can use to try to prevent your mother from becoming a victim again including:
- Identify Theft: Help your mom find a safe place to store important identifying information, such as her social security card and Medicare/insurance cards. While many older women keep them in their purse, these cards should actually be kept locked up. Gaining access to one of these cards makes it easy for scammers to steal your mother’s identity and apply for credit cards, car loans and more.
- Door-to-Door Scams: Scammers often target neighborhoods where they know the concentration of older adults is high. Remind your mother not to sign anything or give anyone money before you are able to check them out using online review sites such as Angie’s list and the Better Business Bureau. These fraudulent companies will pressure seniors by offering them too good to be true deals that must be accepted on the spot. Warn your mother that this type of behavior is a red flag that this isn’t a legitimate company.
- Do Not Call Registry: Much of the financial abuse against seniors comes in the form of telemarketing scams. Be sure your mother is on the Do Not Call Registry for both her home and cell phone numbers. While it won’t eliminate all risk for telemarketing fraud, it will likely reduce it.
I hope this helps, Leigh Ann!