Financial Scams and the Elderly

3 Things You Need to Know About Financial Scams Targeted at Seniors

In 2000 there were approximately 35 million people over the age of 65 living in the United States. By 2030, that number is projected to double to 71.5 million people, which will be 20 percent of the total U.S. population. This provides a large target for unscrupulous people who prey on the vulnerabilities of an aging population. Here are three things to know and their telling signs:

1. Family members, relatives, friends and advisers may be the offenders – we would like to think otherwise, however, they normally have the person’s trust and access to information which can make it easier to undertake financial exploitations (stealing, forgery and deceit).

Telling Signs: Be aware of who is helping your loved one and look into their background. If possible, have several family members involved in managing their affairs. Ask to be introduced to the financial adviser or banker who helps with their finances. Check www.finra.com to investigate the adviser’s background and complaint history. Be alert to sudden changes in banking practices and unexplained withdrawals of money by the caretaker and requests for cash payments. Be alert to investment statements that look too plain or photo copied.

2. Your loved one may not tell you everything – if they become the victim of a financial scam, it may be kept a secret because they likely feel ashamed and embarrassed. As people age, their desire to remain independent and susceptibility to cognitive impairment can affect their decision making.

Telling Signs: Look for purchases of items that are out of character or suspicious, such as new appliances, recent driveway work, and unnecessary house improvements and new service contracts. Be on the lookout for phone calls or visits from persons unfamiliar to you. Offer to consult with your loved one prior to any major purchases, contract signing and charitable gifts.

3. Financial Scams are difficult to spot – many victims do not realize they have been scammed until it is too late. Scammers are very good at appearing trustworthy, covering their tracks and figuring out just how to rip off their victims. They especially target those persons who live alone and depend on others. They often “tug at the heart strings” through donation requests.

Telling Signs: Monitor your loved one’s checkbook registers and credit card statements to see if there are unfamiliar payees or check amounts. Most accounts can be set up so you can see them online. This will allow you to question transactions on a timely basis and reverse payments if necessary.

There are a number of excellent resources available that discuss common financial and internet scams and where to get help when needed. They include: www.stopseniorscams.org; www.ftc.gov; www.fbi.gov; www.sec.gov. In addition, your local community will have their own resources which can be identified through a Google search.

The author of this article, George S. Urist, MBA, CFP® is President and Owner of Urist Financial and Retirement Planning, Inc., located in East Syracuse, New York. George Urist has been a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM and Registered Representative with LPL Financial for over 23 years. George can be followed on twitter @gurist and can be reached at 315-445-2147 or at george.urist@lpl.com. Securities offered through LPL Financial. Member FINRA/SIPC