How to Approach Your Parents About Scams and Fraud

Knowing How To Approach Your Parents About Fraud And Scams Will Help Protect Them From This Older Adult Epidemic.

Each year, fraud results in huge financial losses. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans lost a record $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021. Over the prior year, that represented an increase of 70%. According to the AARP, the typical amount of money lost increased with age, reaching $1,500 for those who were 80 years old and older vs $500 for those who were in their 20s.

It’s time to have a conversation with your parents about fraud and scams if you take care of an older senior and are concerned that they will have their hard-earned money taken by a con artist.

But for a number of reasons, this can end up being a touchy subject for many of our parents. This is due to a few factors:

  • They could be embarrassed to tell you if they’ve already been the victim of a financial fraud.
  • They desire a sense of financial control. They can feel threatened by having someone else dictate what they should do with it.
  • They might have faith in their capacity to distinguish between a genuine request and a fraud. However, in today’s tech-driven world, scams may be continually developing, and their understanding may not take this into consideration.

How to Discuss Fraud and Scams with Your Parents

Here are some suggestions to help you and your senior loved one have a conversation about scams:

  1. Start by having a candid talk. You can start by simply inquiring about their knowledge of fraud and scams, as well as whether they have any acquaintances who have been duped. You can also bring up current examples of scams and get their opinion on them (see the examples later in this narrative). You can concentrate on why questions to broaden the conversation. Ask why it’s troublesome, for example, if they receive a letter claiming they won a sweepstakes. (Response: Since they never actually entered the contest.) From there, you can extend your debate.
  2. Inquire with them about fraud and scams they experienced as children. This makes it easier to carry on the conversation without coming off as though you’re telling them what to do. You can connect the topic to the most recent frauds by learning about the kind of scams that were popular in the past.
  3. Utilize their knowledge and judgment. Give a few examples of modern-day frauds that target senior citizens. Inquire about their response to these possibilities. If necessary, congratulate them on their hypothetical choices or suggest alternatives. Need examples of recent fraud? The story section is below.
  4. Equip them with knowledge. If the older adult in your life prefers to conduct their own research, direct them to some of the websites that contain dependable information about scams. These sites consist of:
  • FBI Common Scams and Crimes
  • Federal Trade Commission’s Scam List
  • IRS Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts
  • AARP’s Fraud Watch Network


The Most Common Scams, Many of Which Target Seniors

Here are a few examples of current scams, particularly ones that target seniors, that you can bring up with the older adult in your life:

Rental-apartment scams

Finding an advertisement for a rental apartment at an extraordinary price seems like a true find right now, with increasing inflation and higher rental costs. However, if anything seems too good to be true, it probably is. This is how rental scams operate all around the nation. A con artist will post an online advertisement for a rental house at an unbelievable price. An eager renter will put money down for the apartment only to discover when they arrive that it wasn’t a true offer. The con artist pulls this off by using a genuine rental ad but changing the contact details. Watch out for unusually low rent offers, rental ads with numerous grammar mistakes, and landlords who seem especially eager to fill vacancies.

Gift-card fraud

These frauds, which frequently target senior citizens, entail a thief contacting a victim and posing as the victim’s grandson or another family. By suggesting the victim is in jail or has been kidnapped, they attempt to surprise them and push them into an immediate frenzy. Or, on occasion, it has less to do with dread and more to do with bewilderment. In either case, the con artist will say they require the victim to buy gift cards from a major retailer (like Walmart) and email them pictures. The con artist has already used the money before the victim has a chance to realize what is happening.

Grandparents’ Scam

This scam is based on fear, same like the gift card scam. Someone will get in touch with the victim and pretend to be a grandchild, nephew, or another younger relative asking for assistance. They will ask the unwitting victim for money or something else while muffling their voice or sending texts that appear to be from a new phone or even a prison phone.

Scams in home repairs

It is crucial to talk to your parents as they age about fraud because this is less of a pure scam and more of an instance of older individuals being exploited. This fraud is merely an act of opportunity crime. A dishonest plumber, carpenter, or other home maintenance professional will recognize the symptoms of cognitive loss and persuade your elderly parent that a quick $200 fix won’t make things better. Instead, they force customers to pay thousands of dollars for unneeded work by locking them into expensive renovations or even monthly services.

Scam of the free COVID-19 home test

Scammers have taken advantage of the free COVID-19 exams offered by the federal government. While the official government examinations may be found on the websites and, scammers have utilized websites with similar names to steal personal information. Once a name or email is added to their database, a person may start receiving “phishing” emails that try to find out more information or that install malware (unsafe software) to browse the computer’s contents. This scam is only one of many COVID-19 frauds that have taken place in recent years.

Also Read: 5 Reasons Why Seniors Should Choose Home Care

Inheritance from an absent family member

Has your Iowan aunt Betty left you a huge inheritance? Most likely not, but some scammers want you or an elderly loved one to think so. People have reportedly received letters in the mail from a law practice claiming to be looking for the heir to a multimillion dollar bequest, according to claims from the Federal Trade Commission (some of these letters may come from a U.S. address, and some may come from Canada). The letter’s “lawyer” proposes to divide the inheritance among you, the firm, and a few charity. The problem? You must keep the details a secret, and you must contact the “legal firm” right away. They will need your Social Security number and bank account details after you respond.

IRS imposter fraud

A frightening IRS agent calling someone on the phone is one hoax that frequently targets immigrants and older people. The “police” issues threats of jail time, deportation, or license suspension during the call. The objective is to gather personal data. The IRS wants to remind everyone that they will usually reach out to you via letter, not phone, as their initial point of contact. Disregard the warning and end the call. Use the special IRS Form 1040-SR for seniors if you are 65 years of age or older.

Two ways to safeguard your parents against fraud and scams

  1. Remind your elderly loved one not to divulge sensitive information over the phone. Their Social Security number and bank account information are included. They can contact the company the caller claims to be from if they have any doubts about the legitimacy of a call.
  2. Add the Direct Marketing Association’s opt-out list with the address of your loved one. They will be able to stop receiving junk mail from reputable companies thanks to this. Therefore, you should be wary if they do get junk mail.

Register their phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry maintained by the Federal Trade Commission. The Do Not Call list will guard customers against getting marketing calls from reliable companies, much like the Direct Marketing Association’s opt-out list does.

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