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Fraud Against the Elderly: How To Prevent It
Each year millions of senior citizens are victimized by financial fraud or theft of money, property or valuable personal information. Often, an adult child or other relative is responsible. Other situations may involve trusted individuals such as caregivers, legal guardians, investment advisors or new "friends." And because the types of abuse may differ widely, it's important to take a variety of precautions. Here are suggestions for protecting yourself and your loved ones:
- Choose an advisor carefully. If you're considering hiring a new broker, attorney, accountant or other professional, even someone recommended by a friend or relative, it's best to independently look into that person's background and reputation before investing money or paying for services.
- Be careful with powers of attorney. At some point, you may want to have a power of attorney , a legal document that authorizes another person to transact business on your behalf. While powers of attorney can be very helpful, be careful who you name as your representative. Powers of attorney can be easily misused because you allow the appointed person to step into your shoes and do everything you can do, including taking money from your account and borrowing money in your name.
- Protect your personal financial information. Never give out your bank account numbers, Social Security number, PINs, passwords or other sensitive information unless you initiate the contact.
- Closely monitor your credit card and bank account activity. Review your account statements as soon as you receive them and look for unauthorized or suspicious transactions.
- Take your time when deciding on a major financial decision or investment. Make sure you undertand the transaction and ask questions if you don't. If you need to, ask a lawyer or financial advisor to help you understand the documents and discuss what's best for you.
- Be aware of scams involving reverse mortgages. These loans enable homeowners age 62 or older to borrow money from the equity in their homes. However, reverse mortgages can be complex products with a variety of risks and costs, and there are many reports of schemes by unscrupulous individuals using deceptive offers and high-pressure tactics to steer senior citizens into using the funds from a reverse mortgage for inappropriate or costly loans or investments.
- Be aware of callers asking for money or information.
- Don't comply with requests from strangers to deposit a check into your account and wire some or all of it back.
- If you use social media, many security experts advise against posting the names of relatives and anyone's home address, full date of birth and daily activities because those can be valuable to a thief.
To learn more, go to www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors
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