It’s sad, but the truth is, senior citizens fall victim to financial scams all the time. Identity thieves and those who commit credit card fraud often prey on older adults who can be very trusting, intimidated by technology, confused or vulnerable because they just lost a spouse, friend or family member. The good news is there may be something you can do to help.
Make sure the people in your life over the age of 60 know how to spot a scam, and you too know what questions to ask elderly about their life and what they’ve experienced recently.
This advice can be especially helpful around the holidays when people tend to make a lot of purchases online and make donations.
As we age, there are also new and different things to think about when it comes to managing your finances and protecting your assets, like understanding complex benefits and knowing when and how to choose a reputable financial advisor.
If you are ever suspicious about a call you received (someone claiming to be from your bank, for example), trust your gut. This also goes for caregivers, family members and friends: Know what questions to ask the elderly about their life so you can be aware of any strange activity they have experienced too.
Let’s talk about your financial future. Contact PAX Financial Group to schedule a complimentary, no-strings-attached retirement check-up.
Watch for Scams
Fraud and identity theft are on the rise, especially among older Americans. It’s estimated that these crimes cost seniors more than $36 billion every year.
With technology constantly evolving and becoming more and more advanced, seniors are often easy marks for scammers, simply because they’re less likely to be up-to-date on the latest threats.
Don’t engage with anyone who approaches you unexpectedly and tries to convince you to buy goods or services you don’t really need. Also beware of anyone who asks for deposits or down payments in cash. Don’t allow yourself to be rushed or pressured into any decisions; say no, and be confident and firm.
A common trick that scammers use against seniors is trying to impersonate a relative, often a grandchild. The caller pretends to be in trouble – kidnapped, in jail or stuck in a foreign country – and begs for money to be sent by wire transfer as soon as possible. The scammer usually asks the person to keep the situation secret, preying on the victim’s feeling of obligation to help a loved one. If you get a call like this, always check with the relative or another family member before giving any money. Chances are you’ll find that your relative is safe and sound, stateside.
Be wary of anyone who urges you to quickly send funds by wire transfer, insists on secrecy or peddles an offer that seems too good to be true. If you’re suspicious about something or someone, ask questions, check references, request contact information and do some research before committing to or signing anything – and always before handing over money or information!
Aside from trusting your intuition and using common sense, your greatest weapon against becoming a victim is knowledge. Stay informed on the latest scams, know how to identify red flags and take the right steps to protect yourself. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) maintains a scam alert website, where you can not only learn the specifics about recent scams reported to the FTC, but also browse reported scams by topic and get email updates.
Don’t Disclose Personal Information
Likewise, keep your information safe. Financial institutions, service providers, billing departments, etc., should never ask for login information over the phone.
Never give out your bank account number, Social Security number, personal identification numbers, Medicare info, credit card numbers, passwords or other sensitive information in response to an unsolicited phone call, text, email or any other kind of message.
If someone calls from your bank, credit card company or another institution asking for this type of information, hang up and call the company directly – not from a number the person on the phone gives you but the one you have on file! You can call the number you have for them and confirm whether the initial call was legitimate.
Similarly, be careful with emails asking for information. Don’t open emails from people you don’t know and be leery of clicking on links or download attachments, even if an email looks like it was sent by your bank or credit card company.
Share Information With Trusted Loved Ones
No one other than a trusted family member, friend or financial advisor should have access to your personal or financial information. Designate someone you know and trust as your power of attorney to make financial decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to, and consult that person before making any large purchases, investments or funds transfers.
Also, consider adding a safeguard, such as requiring agreement between two people you trust, or a third-party review of transactions.
Update Your Beneficiaries
Beneficiary statements override wills and estate plans, so you should make sure both reflect your current wishes for distribution of your assets in the event of your death. In most cases, checking and changing beneficiaries is easy and convenient and can often be done online.
It’s a good idea to review and update your beneficiaries about every three to five years, except in cases of marriage or divorce, or the death or birth of a beneficiary.
If you are the caregiver for your parents or anyone over the age of 60, make sure you know the right questions to ask elderly about their life, their finances and their plans for the future.
Understand Medicare Programs and Social Security Benefits
Medicare and Social Security are programs that most seniors will take advantage of, but they can be extremely complicated and confusing. There are many resources available, including regular workshops hosted by PAX Financial Group. (Click here for a list of what we’ve got planned next.)
Understanding these benefits and how they work can prevent you from taking information from an unsolicited caller who claims to be asking questions for one of these programs.
Work with a Financial Advisor
If you have questions about these or any other issues related to your personal information, finances or benefits, ask someone with knowledge and experience.
When in doubt, consult a professional. A financial advisor can answer questions, provide guidance and safeguards, and help you make wise investment choices. If you’re in the San Antonio area, contact PAX Financial Group to see how we can help.
This material is provided by PAX Financial Group, LLC. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. The information herein has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note: Investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. Investments will fluctuate and when redeemed may be worth more or less than when originally invested. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All market indices discussed are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment. Indices do not incur management fees, costs and expenses, and cannot be invested into directly. All economic and performance data is historical and not indicative of future results.