How confident are you in avoiding fraudulent schemes during retirement? When was the last time you checked your parents’ financial statements? It’s a tricky issue, and one that requires much attention.
It’s estimated that American seniors lose nearly $10 billion to scam artists and another $3 billion to identity theft each year. Another $17 billion is lost to technically legal but deceptive practices. What’s worse, they are sometimes even carried about by people close to the victim. According to a MetLife Mature Market Institute survey of reported swindles, 51% of the scammers were strangers, but 34% were family, friends or neighbors. So the key to protecting yourself and loved ones is to keep a close eye on finances and any aggressive efforts to make an exchange. What may seem to be everyday marketing too often crosses the line into legitimate fraud. From telephone solicitation to investing seminars offering free lunch, there is some call to action – “help” with finances, avoiding foreclosure, or a getting involved with a “sure thing” investment – that convinces elders to cough up money they don’t have. This can be detrimental to retirement savings that are already stretched thin, and needs to be vigilantly avoided.
Here are some great resources for protecting yourself and your parents from fraud:
- True Link Financial – a San Francisco-based financial services firm that helps seniors, vulnerable individuals and their families avoid fraud and financial abuse.
- Tell your parents you want to protect them by helping them go through their mail and monitor their accounts for unusual activity. Help them get copies of their credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com to make sure they aren’t victims of identity theft.
- Put your parents on do-not-call lists. Most telemarketers will stop calling once a number has been on the National Do Not Call Registry for 31 days. You can register home and cellphone numbers free at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 888-382-1222
- Offer to help your folks develop a spending plan. This will give you a chance to see how much money is coming in and how they’re spending it.
- Warn them about free-lunch seminars at which they could fall prey to a high-pressure sales presentation. If they’ve already been targeted, contact the salesman and ask him to stop calling.
- If you suspect investment fraud, contact the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy at 800-732-0330, your state’s securities regulators (you’ll find links to regulators at www.nasaa.org) or your state’s Adult Protective Services, the agency that investigates reports of elderly financial abuse. To find your state Adult Protective Services office, visit the website of the U.S. Administration on Aging’s National Center on Elder Abuse or call the elder-care locator at 800-677-1116.
- To get more tips on protecting yourself from fraud, visit On Guard Online, which has interactive games to teach you about issues related to spyware, lottery scams, and other swindles.
Fraud is a terrifying prospect, especially during retirement years. There are enough things to worry about, let alone trickster businessmen looking to make a quick buck. But through diligence and awareness, you and your loved ones can skate by any financially crippling schemes.
Do you or a loved one have any experience with financial fraud? What form did it come in? How did it affect you? What advice would you give to others? Share with us!