Protecting the Elderly from Financial Exploitation

by Katherine Grace Carman and Sierra Smucker: For Complete Post, click here…

We’ve all had the experience: you get a phone call, email, or text message from someone pretending to be your bank, the Social Security Administration, or someone who is trying to get you to send them money or personal information. We all hope we will manage to avoid falling prey to such schemes. But some groups, like older adults, are more vulnerable to these scams than others and there are no good ways of protecting them.

Why are older adults more vulnerable to financial exploitation? A couple reasons: They may be lonelier (PDF), more trusting, less aware of the kinds of fraud that can take place, or suffering from cognitive impairment. Older adults are also more likely to have money and assets than their younger counterparts of the same race/ethnicity—making them more valuable targets for scam artists. All of these factors can come into play regardless of age, but older people are more likely to experience these risks.

Exploitation can take several forms and the strategies to limit it depends on who is doing the exploiting—strangers or people who are known. Avoiding fraudsters who are strangers requires knowledge of how scammers operate using cell phones, social media, and email, which can challenge older adults’ sometimes limited digital literacy. Predators know that older adults often lack knowledge of technology-driven scams and seek to exploit this common vulnerability.

There are programs in place to help prevent fraud, security at banks and the like, but these technological solutions can actually make things harder for older adults and require them to rely more on people to help them. This potentially exposes these adults to exploitation by people they know.

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