Being a caregiver doesn’t just involve looking after someone else’s personal health and grooming; it also means looking after their personal and financial security by following tips such as the ones outlined in the Elizz Senior Fraud Prevention Infographic.
Fraud scams against seniors are on the rise because seniors are easy targets for anyone who wishes to take advantage of their trusting nature.
Fraud scams against seniors are on the rise because seniors are easy targets for anyone who wishes to take advantage of their trusting nature, which they acquired when much of the technology we take for granted today did not exist or was still new, and the possibilities not fully explored. A senior’s lack of familiarity with today’s fast-paced technological advances, and the social isolation of elderly persons, simply make them more vulnerable to friendly faces with malicious intentions.
Here at Elizz we have compiled this list of fraud prevention tips for seniors. If you are a family caregiver for an elderly person and need additional help or advice, call 1-855-Ask-Eliz (275-3549) or check out our Elizz support services, which includes support for you, as the caregiver, as well as home care services for the person in your care.
Technology is evolving at such a fast pace that keeping up with the latest trends, both good and bad, is sometimes a difficult task – even for the experts. That’s why caregivers should be aware of the dangers of fraud against seniors and against all the people in their care.
As a caregiver, you need to learn about the different ways the person you’re taking care of can be scammed. Senior fraud may be a depressing topic, and another thing you don’t need on your to-do list as, but acquiring this awareness can also benefit you as well. Not only will you be learning how to better protect the welfare of the person in your care, you’re also going to learn fraud prevention tips that you can apply to your own life.
Theft of personal information
Criminals are smart and have learned that one of the most prevalent ways of defrauding senior citizens is by stealing their personal information such as date of birth, Social Insurance Number (SIN), home address, and driver’s license number.
Through identity theft, criminals can use this personal information to apply for credit cards, mortgages, loans, order things online, and even sign up for services such as cable, utilities, and cell phone plans.
Identity theft can happen to anyone at any time – I know because it’s happened to me as well.
I believe that my personal information was stolen when I filled out a loan application to buy a new car. Those details were then used to open a cable TV account that went unpaid for over two years, which I didn’t find out about until a collection agency threatened to sue me on behalf of the service provider if I didn’t pay the amount ASAP.
Not wanting to part with thousands of dollars that another person spent using my name, I filed a police report and over the span of a few months, fought to clear my name. It was a major inconvenience.
In my case, the person was only able to steal a few thousand dollars’ worth of free cable TV service, causing temporary damage to my credit rating (which was restored after the police investigation wrapped up).
I’m lucky. I knew what to do because I had a support system of family and friends, and was able to do online research into identity theft on my own to figure out what my next steps would be.
Seniors may not know what to do, or even be aware that they were victims of identity theft, so as their caregivers, we need to try to manage their personal data, or at least teach them the dangers of this type of scam against the elderly.
Debit and credit card fraud
This is another popular trick con artists use against seniors to part them from their money.
Credit Cards - Credit card companies often allow an account holder to borrow money, which the account holder then has to pay back with interest.
Debit Cards - Debit cards allow account holders to withdraw their own money from their bank account.
These types of card scams against the elderly occur when a con artist uses or copies their cards (either the physical card or just the card number) and used this information to make unauthorized purchases or withdraw money from the accounts.
Caregivers can help prevent this type of theft against the elderly from taking place by making sure that the credit or debit cards of the people in your care are kept confidential and out of sight when they are making a purchase or withdrawing money from an automated bank machine (ABM).
If possible, accompany the elderly person you’re taking care of when they go to the bank or are shopping with their card, to make sure that the ABM keypad or point of sale terminal is always well-covered when the senior is inputting their personal identity number (PIN) – which should not be anything too obvious such as their date of birth or address.
And when the card transaction is over – no matter how long the line-up at the register is – never let the cashier or other customers rush you (or the person you’re taking care of) through the process of putting the card safely back into a bag or wallet. Sometimes thieves take advantage of your moment of distraction to slip your credit card or wallet into their pocket with you none the wiser.
Have you ever clicked on an unfamiliar link only to have a popup window open in the middle of the screen that says you’ve downloaded a virus? Or, you’ve received an email that looks like it came from a legitimate business, asking you to “verify your identity” by clicking on a link to log into your account (or replying to their email) with your personal information?
These are called “phishing scams,” and they’re exactly what they sound like: scams that lay out the bait in order to “fish” for your information.
Simply clicking the popup to try and close it usually downloads a virus onto your computer, which then gives the hacker a gateway into the personal information stored there.
I usually press Control + Alt + Delete keys to bring up the task manager, which allows me to close the browser window without having to click on the popup. Of course, make sure that your virus protection, and the virus protection on your computer of the person in your care is up-to-date and you have the popup blocker enabled.
The elderly may not be aware that real businesses would never ask their customers for their personal info, such as password, account number, SIN, home address, etc., especially in an email.
It’s understandable how people can be tricked into revealing their information – after all, it’s not difficult to insert a logo into the body of the email and make it look official with the right language and graphics.
But before you, or the person in your care gets fooled, check the email address. Real businesses have email addresses with their company name as the domain name (i.e. the part of the email address that comes after the @ sign).
Some con artists may already have a person’s information to use against their victim in a phone call or email to trick that person into believing that they are talking to or corresponding with someone they know.
Not too long ago, my aunt received a phone call from someone pretending to be her daughter’s friend. To gain her trust the caller gave my aunt details about my cousin, such as her name, occupation, and the fact that she lives in Ireland with her husband and children.
This person claimed that my cousin had been arrested and needed money for bail. Luckily, my aunt had the presence of mind to call my cousin at her home in Ireland first, who denied knowing the mysterious caller.
When the scammer called back, my aunt asked him who he was and told him that she just talked to her daughter – who was definitely not in jail. The scammer hung up without another word and to this day, we still haven’t figured out who he was or how he knew so many details about their family.
Playing on the emotions of seniors is what con artists do best, especially if they use a story about loved ones to get the elderly to drop their guard.
Door to door scams
Another method that con artists use to violate an elderly person’s sense of security is by posing as trustworthy, friendly people in order to get inside the home.
These types of con artists often go door to door posing as representatives of a charity, religious group, or a utility company there to service an appliance in the home. Some door to door con artists even pretend to be selling appliances, from new furnaces and water heaters, to services like gutter cleaning, window replacement, and driveway repair.
It must be said, though, that not every person who knocks on your door is looking to scam anyone, although even legitimate salespeople can employ high-pressure sales tactics to literally and figuratively get their foot in the door.
While not outright scams, the products or services they offer the elderly may be unwanted or unnecessary, which the person you’re taking care of may purchase anyway —either to get rid of the sales person or because the elderly just can’t say no to a friendly face.
If you think that the person you’re caring for is susceptible to these kinds of sales tactics, or is maybe too trusting, you may want to read our Elizz article Can I leave the person I’m caring for home alone? for tips on what to do if an unexpected visitor knocks on the door while the person you’re caring for is alone in the house.
Fraud prevention tips
There are ways to protect yourself and the person you’re taking care of from fraud. Here are a few fraud prevention tips to keep in mind:
- Keep all personal documents in a safe location, such as a locked drawer or fireproof safe, and never carry around passports, SIN cards, and other types of ID unless you need them.
- Don’t write down personal identification numbers and passwords or tell anyone else what they are “just in case you forget.”
- Shred old bills and statements, including anything with your home address (i.e. envelopes, letters, and the back page of a magazine subscription).
- Don’t click on popup windows to close them. Instead, press the CTRL+ALT+DEL keys to close the window or manually shut down your computer by pressing and holding down the power button.
- Don’t give out any personal information over the phone.
- Don’t feel pressured to sign a contract on the spot. Ask the representative if you can have a few days to think it over. If they refuse to grant your request and insist that the offer is “time-sensitive,” it’s probably better to pass.
- Be suspicious about anyone asking you for money over the phone or email, even if they claim to know you or someone you know.
- Before contracting any work on your home (or the home of the person you’re taking care of), always ask for proof of identity and references from previous clients. Don’t let anyone claiming to be a service repairperson in if you didn’t call for one.
For more information about these fraud scams against seniors and what to do in case you think you or the person in your care has been scammed, visit the Government of Canada website. To speak with an Elizz care professional call 1-855-Ask-Eliz (275-3549).