Too many cases of elderly financial abuse involve someone close to the victim. It could be a guardian, a caretaker or a loved one using their proximity to the person to take advantage of them.
However, older adults can fall victim to financial abuse and scams without ever even seeing the perpetrator. Below we explain how this can happen.
Financial abuse from a distance
Abusers often use the person’s unfamiliarity with technology and trusting nature against them. Using the phone and virtual mediums make it easier for them to access a target’s personal and financial information,
Some of the ways parties can exploit senior victims from afar include:
- The stranded family member scam: The target receives a call or email from someone claiming to be a cousin or other semi-distant family member. They say they are stranded in another country and need money. They often ask the target to send money directly or give them personal information to gain access to accounts.
- Tech support scam: Parties using this tactic call the victim or send them malware, saying they can help the person get rid of viruses and protect them from virtual scams. Instead, the “services” they provide end up being harmful and financially devastating for victims.
- Sweepstakes and lottery winner scams: Posing as an attorney or lottery official, a person tells a victim they have won a foreign lottery or sweepstakes. These scammers say that to receive their prize money, a victim must pay thousands of dollars. Of course, there is no actual prize, and a person ends up losing money to the exploiters.
- Intercepting mail: It is a federal offense to steal or open other people’s mail. However, parties who have access to a senior’s mail may intercept correspondence from their bank or credit card company. They can then use this information to conduct online transactions without the target realizing anything is amiss.
These efforts can be particularly effective on people who are lonely, unfamiliar with technology and suffering from conditions like dementia. They may be less likely to ask questions due to confusion, embarrassment or unfamiliarity with digital systems.
Protecting loved ones
If you are concerned about financial abuse and exploitation of your loved one, you can explore options like powers of attorneys and guardianships. You can also increase your interactions with them and their care providers to check in on them.