How to Spot Financial Abuse
Aging Matters

Last week's column discussed telephone fraudsters and other senior scams to watch out for, especially this time of year. Unfortunately, older individuals are easy targets because we're lonely and miss the constant companionship we enjoyed at work. Or we're lonely because the spouse has passed and the adult children have busy lives.

That leaves seniors open to a seemingly pleasant, trustworthy, and slick professionals who use the telephone in a friendly and engaging manner and traps us with kind words and attention. Scammers are smart and well-trained. They know exactly what to say to get you to listen and trust them.

Financial abuse is rampant, both online and on the telephone, and even via the mail. Since consumers shop via the computer, a lot of our private and personal information is accessible without us knowing about it.

The most favorable way to keep your money, credit cards, and other assets safe is to monitor the financial activity very closely. If you don't bank online, have your adult child or a trusted family member to open an online account with your permission. Then they can keep tabs to see what goes out of the account. But obviously, you need to trust them very much before doing this step.

Here are other ways to stay safe and secure, ones that reduce the chances of financial abuse.

  • Never give out your personal information to anyone on the phone, mail or internet
  • Never respond to an offer that you do not understand
  • Ask for a work bid in writing and only pay when you receive the agreed upon work
  • Always shred credit card receipts or statements
  • Safeguard your Medicare, Social Security, and Credit Cards and Numbers
  • Do not sign any blank forms or give blanket authorizations
  • Do not do business with telephone or door-to-door salespeople (unless you know them or have done business with them)
  • Be wary of free deals
  • Do not let anyone pressure you into buying anything
  • Don't buy from unknown businesses
  • Don't fall for phone scams where the caller masquerades as your grandchild saying they need money

The FBI says if you are age 60 or older-and especially if you are an older woman living alone-you may be a special target of people who sell bogus products and services by telephone. Telemarketing scams often involve offers of free prizes, low-cost vitamins and healthcare products, and inexpensive vacations.

If you suspect you've been a victim of fraud, contact the Adult Protective Services in your area, call the Eldercare Locator, a government-sponsored national resource line, at 1-800-677-1116, or visit their website at

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Carol Marak, aging advocate, She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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