Elder abuse comes in many forms. An overwhelming majority of it is financial abuse. If you have an elder parent or family member who lives alone, he or she may be at risk of a new wave of telemarketing fraud targeting the elderly.
One recent case of telemarketing fraud billed elderly consumers for medical alert devices they never ordered. Telemarketers would claim they were calling in response to a request for information from the person or a family member and then try to sell them the device. Even those who didn’t order were sent a bill along with the shipment. The company behind the telemarketing fraud would then use threats and intimidation to induce the victims to pay.
If you don’t think telemarketing fraud can happen to your loved one, consider this. According to a study by the AARP, seniors over age 50 are disproportionately at risk for becoming victims of telemarketing fraud. The study found that the average age of victims was 69 and that women were twice as likely as men to become victims.
Telemarketing fraud is also becoming increasingly sophisticated. Fast-talking predators use high pressure sales techniques and psychological ploys to overcome a senior’s initial resistance. Some other common schemes involve low-cost, high-risk investments, fake charities, time-sensitive product deals, or prize winnings that seniors are told they have to pay taxes or a fee to collect.
When a senior becomes a victim of telemarketing fraud, it can be financially devastating. Because these crimes are hard to trace, it is very difficult for victims to get their money back. Sadly, many incidents of telemarketing fraud against the elderly simply go unreported. Elderly victims may be embarrassed, don’t know where to go to report the crime, or fear they will lose their independence if they do report it.
Here are some steps you can take to help protect your elderly parents or family members from becoming victims.
- Talk to your parents about types of telemarketing fraud and remind them never to pay up front for a product or service, or to give out personal information such as a credit card or social security number over the phone.
- Offer to help them manage their personal finances so you can monitor bank and credit card statements for any unusual activity.
- Have them sign up for national Do Not Call list (888-382-1222, www.donotcall.gov) to help cut down on telemarketing calls.
- Design a call script, such as “I don’t give out personal information over the phone,” to aid them in ending calls from pushy telemarketers.
- If your elderly parent has dementia, or is otherwise incapacitated, you may want to contact an elder law attorney to advise you on utilizing your parent’s durable power of attorney and/or obtaining a guardianship or conservatorship.
For more suggestions on how to identify and prevent elderly telemarketing scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer education website.
The best protection against telemarketing fraud and elder abuse is to ensure that your loved ones are properly cared for and that their assets are protected. Proper estate planning can help give you and your loved ones piece of mind. Contact us to discuss various planning options today.
Photo Credit: Tim Dorr