How to Protect Your Aging Parents from Getting Scammed
It’s one of the most frustrating things a child can face – seeing their parents being taken advantage of financially. Yet, it’s a growing problem and one that costs seniors billions of dollars each year. So what can you do to protect your loved one?
First, it helps to know why seniors are targeted. Here’s just a few of the reasons why scammers see seniors as potential victims.
- Most seniors were raised to be polite, so it’s hard to say “no.”
- Seniors often have money set aside in savings and retirement accounts.
- Seniors may have memory issues, making it more unlikely they’ll report the crime.
- Many seniors are lonely, making them more susceptible to a friendly stranger.
- Seniors tend to give people the benefit of the doubt.
When you understand what makes them vulnerable, you can help protect their weak spots. While there’s really nothing you can do about their financial state, you can suggest ways to make funds less readily available, such as safe investments. You can also suggest that you be added to their bank accounts, explaining that this way, you can pay their bills, etc. should they ever become incapacitated. This would allow you to monitor their account for any large expenditures.
If you have a parent who lives alone, encourage them to go to events at local senior centers. If you live in the area, take them out on occasions yourself. If not, find out who their friends are and encourage them to drop by and check in on occasion. If they’re actively engaged in their community, they’re less likely to engage a scammer, either on the phone or in person.
You can also educate your parents about the dangers before they become a victim. This can be tricky, because parents – just like rebellious teens – don’t like to be “lectured” to by their children or made to feel stupid.
One good way to start the conversation is to share your own experience of being taken advantage of (even if it didn’t happen) or share the story of someone else you know of who got scammed. This way you can end the conversation with “Don’t make my mistake” or “Don’t make Sheila’s mistake” and provide some tips on how they can protect themselves. This way, it sounds less like a lecture and more like caring advice. Follow this up with some printed literature you can leave with them. AARP released a great video talking about fraud and how scammers work. It shows several seniors who have been victims and how they fell for the scam. Invite your loved one to watch it with you, not as something they need to know, but as valuable information you could both benefit from. Simply making your parents aware of the problem will make them more aware and less likely to say “yes” to something they have no interest in. Done well, you can impart important information that will leave your parent feeling empowered and better able to push back against scammers.
Finally, if your parent does fall victim to a scam, don’t scold them or make them feel stupid. Tell them there are millions of other people in their situation and work with them find ways to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
With a little diligence and planning, you can provide your parents with the tools they need to avoid being victims.