Caregivers Must Protect Seniors from Scammers, Especially During Tax Season
‘Tis the season!
What season you ask? Well, sure, it’s tax season, but saddling right up next to it is prey on seniors season.
This predatory season remains open all year, unfortunately, but the weeks and months leading up to April 15 are rife with scammers who target vulnerable seniors. It’s unimaginable, but senior citizens are defrauded to the tune of $37 billion each year in the United States, and that’s only what is reported.
Many victims may not even file a report because they’re embarrassed about being duped by a stranger into handing over their limited funds. Millions are hoodwinked each year, and though seniors are perhaps the most vulnerable and the most targeted demographic, they’re not alone.
The tactics used by scammers are quite cunning. They’ve apparently studied the language used by legitimate businesses, organizations, and governing authorities. Copying that lingo, scammers can sound very convincing, and seniors are a soft target.
The world is different
Many seniors, especially those with cognitive issues, may not be as savvy as they once were, in terms of business acumen. At one time, they ran their own households and companies and were adept at handling sticky situations. They’ve lost their edge, but also, their roles have changed.
Someone else has taken charge for them and pays the bills, takes them to the doctor, prepares their taxes, and generally processes all of their paperwork. Additionally, the world has changed. Face-to-face interaction isn’t a tactic that scammers use very often, but technology has become a terrible tool in their hands.
A large percentage of seniors don’t access the internet. Those who do are targeted just like everyone else, only they possibly lack the ability to recognize when the bull’s-eye is on their backs.
We all receive emails from odd sources, with legitimate sounding requests, but a senior may lack the capacity to recognize a fake email. They miss the little cues and telltale signs that scream “not legit.” Helping seniors navigate around the trickery of scammers is a job that caregivers must take on. But how?
Caregivers have to walk the delicate balance of allowing their loved one as much independence as possible, while also protecting them from fraud. You may have to adjust your definition of eavesdropping.
Pay attention to the one-sided conversations you hear on your loved one’s end of the telephone. If you notice that they’re answering questions that are specific to their situation, interrupt the conversation. This may seem rude, but it could save you and your loved one a lot of heartache, not to mention thousands of hard-earned Social Security dollars.
Ask, “To whom are you speaking?” Remember, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) do not make unwarranted calls, and they don’t use threatening language. These agencies only return calls to someone who has previously requested a callback. Gently insist that the senior hang up on callers who claim to represent the SSA or the IRS.
Seniors also receive robocalls, just like everyone else. Have you noticed how realistic the recorded conversations sound? The computerized calls are programmed to pick up on certain words, and seniors don’t always recognize that artificial intelligence is gathering information. As a caregiver, I’ve been amazed at how willing and innocently my loved one assumes the person on the other end of the phone really is who they say they are.
Caregivers must remind those they provide care to, especially if cognitive issues are at play, that just because the person on the other end of the phone provides a name and a position, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true.
This can be a difficult sell to a generation that cut their teeth on the Yellow Pages and that only scheduled appointments via the telephone. Why wouldn’t they believe the person calling is a policeman or a firefighter or from the bank? Of course they’ll provide their name, address, and Social Security number for verification. It sounds so convincing.
Caregivers must take charge in defending against scammers and anyone who would take advantage of the senior in their lives. Basically, employ the same tactics used to protect your own personal information. Also, if the senior received a call from someone claiming to be from the SSA or IRS, report it to the respective agency. Provide as much information as possible, including what was said, and the telephone number the call was made from.
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