The National Council on Aging calls scams against seniors “the crime of the 21st century” due to how often they happen, how easy it is for criminals to pull them off and how damaging they can be to the victims. At Accredited Home Care, we try to educate all of our clients what danger signs to look for that can indicate if something is probably too good to be true.
Educating Against Fraud
We make it a point to educate any family members or caregivers, especially around the holidays. Since our home health care team can’t be at everyone’s home all the time to give advice, we want to make sure people aren’t victimized at other times. If anything, family members, loved ones or caregivers who are knowledgeable about the different types of fraud and warning signs of possible illegal activity can be good checkpoints in case a client is confused and uncertain about an offer or request for help or money.
This type of communication and cross-referencing with someone they trust can be vital; many scammers try to confuse and fast-talk their potential victims and take advantage of stressful times, but in some cases, if seniors are allowed the opportunity to think over what the scammer is saying or run the situation by someone else, it’s easier to see the holes in what they’re demanding.
Having a trusted caregiver also can encourage people to let the authorities know that someone is trying to perpetrate a scam. While it may not always lead to an arrest, it can alert people in a community that scam attempts are taking place locally.
What To Watch For
Sometimes, people may feel guilty or embarrassed about being caught up in a scam, or even coming close to falling victim, so they may not want to let law enforcement know all the painful details. But with some encouragement from a caregiver, reporting their story could perhaps help someone else avoid being a victim in the future.
Here are some danger signs that caregivers can look for during the holidays:
- Unsolicited money. If a client is excited about a windfall, like a promise of money or an actual check for a lottery or sweepstakes they never entered, it’s likely a scam. Some scammers may ask people to pay “service costs” before the main prize is sent, or to cash the check and send a portion to the scammer. When the check comes back from the bank as fraudulent, the person often has to pay back the money. Legitimate sweepstakes or lotteries will make an effort to contact winners to discuss disbursement, often by certified mail or other official sources, rather than simply sending a check. Caregivers can encourage people to double-check with a bank, learn more about the sweepstakes or even consult an attorney.
- Panic over family members in trouble. One common scam is someone calling, saying that they’re a grandchild or relative who has been in an accident, been arrested or needs help in some way fast. In some cases, the caller will say “don’t tell anyone” and request money or access to bank information. Because family members may not recognize someone’s voice but do want to help, this scam is often successful. Caregivers can take steps to verify with other family members that the person who claims to be calling is actually fine and not in a dangerous situation at all.
- Money requests. This type of fraud can take many forms, including a caller claiming that they are from the IRS, the local sheriff’s department or other positions of legal authority. They may ask for money quickly to avoid the senior being in a scary situation where there are charges, arrests, warrants or audits. In some cases, an accomplice might pose as someone from this agency who will accept the money or verify that the request is legitimate and an arrest is pending. Caregivers can verify that no warrants have been issued, and that civil enforcement matters are never solved in this manner.
- Cyber attacks. Seniors have a high possibility of falling victim to computer attacks, such as requests for bank information that appear legitimate, or warnings that their computer has been infected unless they buy an expensive anti-virus program. Seniors are especially susceptible because they may not be as familiar with some of the security features of their computers or be able to tell actual security problems from false ones. Even if they don’t have high computer abilities, a caregiver can likely run a security scan or check the firewall, or look closely at suspect emails. Clues of falseness can often include poor grammar or email addresses that don’t seem to correspond (a gmail or hotmail address or a non-U.S. vs. something from a legitimate company.) They can also double-check with a local branch of a financial institution like a bank.
We can help
The team at Accredited Home Care is always happy to assist in getting to the bottom of suspicious requests or potential scams that can affect our clients any time of year. We’ll be happy to work with authorities and family members to prevent them through education, or help verify legitimate requests and avoid the fake ones.