Avoiding Senior Fraud


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With the advent of the internet, it's been easier than ever for scam artists to try and convince older adults to give them money. These thieves lie through emails, phone conversations, snail mail or just in face-to-face interactions. Seniors tend to be targets as they are quicker to believe promises and slower to take action against rip-offs. More than half of the financial assets in the U.S. are owned by  seniors meaning many are financially stable, and they are also willing to help others even if it is a stranger. It can be hard to protect a parent from one of these schemes, but it's not impossible.

Both AARP and MetLife have conducted studies of elder financial abuse. It has been found that the annual financial loss by victims of elder abuse is estimated to be at least $2.9 billion, which is a 12 percent increase since 2008. We hate to have to think of it, but this is happening here in both Clay and Duval county. Home Instead has also teamed up with the National Association of Triads to launch the Protecting Seniors from Fraud program to educate seniors about what can be done to protect themselves.

Home Instead Senior Care of Orange Park has created a "Senior Fraud Protection Kit" for both seniors and families to use. The kit follows the Home Instead signature, to help seniors stay safely in their home. The program is designed to safeguard seniors from the many scams that could jeopardize their savings, health and independence.

"Seniors may be afraid to be seen as a vulnerable and not fit to continue living alone. It's a perceived threat of a loss of independence that drives many to keep quiet," says Ed Hutchison of the National Association of Triads. One of the first steps is to check whether a con artist may have already struck. "We ask that our caregivers keep a watchful eye when in a client's house," says Betsy Miller of Home Instead Senior Care Orange Park. "Any suspicious activity with phone calls, changes in mail like overdue bill notices, or letters promoting sweepstakes or prizes could be signs of fraud."

One way to keep track of your senior loved one is to help monitor their spending. If scams are suspected it is important that a senior check with a family member before giving personal information to a stranger. Besides money scams, identity theft is another popular scam. It is important to make sure that sensitive information or documents are shredded when disposed of.  common scams, so make sure that sensitive information is shredded or otherwise disposed.

AARP.org  has lists some of the more common scams, ranging from one where a con artist pretends to be a lawyer who is trying to help a grandchild or an investor who claims to be interested in helping an older adult lower credit card rates. Other scams sometimes involve documents that look like they are government documents or related to healthcare.

The Jacksonville Sherriff's Office (JSO) posts updates on their website about elderly scam alerts. "We want all of our seniors to be safe from crime. It is wonderful to know that JSO has started their own project called Seniors Vs. Crime. With the Senior Fraud Kit, JSO and education of our caregivers, seniors can stay safely and comfortably in their home," says Betsy.

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