How to Protect Your Aging Parents From Financial Scams

August 17, 2015

It’s unfortunate but true that scam artists prey on the elderly. They often do this because a) the elderly often have a significant amount of money, and b) because the elderly, especially the very old, can often be confused. For this reason, you should consider ways to protect your aging parents from financial scams.

Here are some strategies you can use…

Put Their Phone Numbers on the Do Not Call Registry

This doesn’t guarantee that your parents will never get scammed, but it will certainly reduce the chances of it happening. Direct phone calls are one of the favorite methods that scam artists use. A convincing speaker can sometimes talk an elderly person into doing something that they couldn’t do either face-to-face or by mail.

Phone calls can be especially effective if an elderly person feels lonely. The caller can establish him- or her-self as something of a new found friend. The calming voice offering a solution to a problem can sometimes be a welcome intrusion.

You can sign your parents up for the Do Not Call Registry. It is a federal registry in which your phone number is restricted from solicitation calls for a period of three years. Callers who violate the registry can be severely fined for doing so.

Make Sure They Understand the Risks of Scams, Particularly to the Elderly

Your first, best line of defense in protecting your aging parents from financial scams is to make sure that they understand both the realities and the risks of participating in one. Your parent needs to understand that scam artists specifically target the elderly. They also need to understand that these people are not their friends, no matter how warm and sympathetic they may sound.

Your parents should understand that they should never give out personal information, especially their Social Security number or any financial account numbers. This includes not only bank accounts, but also investment accounts, retirement accounts, and credit card accounts.

A scam artist can either clean out an asset account, or run up huge charges on credit lines. All they need are the account numbers, and they can be on their way. Those won’t be hard to get if they can convince your parent to make even a small purchase, in which they provide an account number and the three digit CSC (Credit Security Code) code on the back of a credit card.

Ask Them to Discuss Any Major Financial Moves With You

Many elderly parents, resentful of the role reversal that comes late life, resist sharing financial information with their children. But as your parents enter into their eighties, or they become incapacitated in any way, it will be important for you to convince them to share information with you on any major financial moves they’re planning on making.

If there is resistance, reassure them that the purpose is not for you to gain control of their assets, but to make sure that others – who have no business having access – never get control of them.

If someone is attempting to scam them, but they discuss it with you first, you’ll be in a position to prevent the scam from becoming a reality. You may have to get deeply involved in the scam itself, in order to prove to your parents that it’s actually an illegal operation.

Take Over Their Finances If They’ve Already Been Scammed

This can be a difficult step, because it is often a sign to aging parents that they’re coming to the end of their lives and are no longer in a position to manage their own affairs. At the same time, it’s absolutely necessary. If they have been scammed in the past, you’ll need to get directly involved in their finances to the greatest degree possible.

The best time to do this is right on the heels of an actual scam situation. Hopefully, it won’t reach the point where money or critical information has changed hands. But just the fact that it is happening – and that your parents fell victim to it – could be all the evidence that you need to prove to your parents that you need to be closely involved in their finances.

Your purpose should always be clear – that you are getting involved to keep them from losing what they have, and not take it for yourself.

Financial Troubles Could Make Them Willing to Entertain Scams

This can be a serious X factor for your parents. If they have financial troubles, they are likely to be more vulnerable to scams than they would normally be. One of the most popular tactics that scam artists use is to convince the victim that the scammer can solve their problem. It could be too much debt, insufficient income, or a lack of savings. But whatever the financial problem is, its existence will make your parents more vulnerable to scams.

The best way to deal with this is to do what you can to help to improve your parents financial situation. That may mean that you may have to supply some cash to fill an empty bank account, or take over a debt payment, or even do what you can to help them find additional sources of income.

The very fact that you’re helping them with whatever the financial concern is, should raise your credibility in their eyes, as well as eliminate the perceived need to even entertain a potential scam.

Even if your parents have always avoided scams throughout their lives, you can never ignore the possibility that both awareness and defenses drop with age. Sometimes it can be the medications that they are on, other times it’s driven by emotions (mostly fear), and often by the aging process itself. What ever the source, it’s a problem at you can’t ignore, otherwise they can lose everything they have.


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Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.

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