Recently, I discussed in this blog how criminals are constantly scheming to rob seniors of their life savings through various high-tech swindles and con games. The problem is so serious and widespread that now banks are developing specialized software to keep them at bay.
The good news is the defensive software weaponry used by banks like Wells Fargo is pretty sophisticated and effective. Banks that employ such software are now beginning to recognize patterns that signal potential irregularities in seniors’ accounts. They’re able to spot odd withdrawals and suspicious activity based on the account holder’s history.
The problem is that what they’re discovering are thefts that have already taken place. Once someone steals your money it’s sadly usually impossible to recover it, so it’s crucial to protect yourself before anyone steals your cash.
That’s why seniors can’t rely on banks to protect them and need to remain alert to fraud and attempts to wipe out their retirement funds.
The fact is that because seniors frequently have significant amounts of money in their accounts, they’re a favorite target for all sorts of outrageous financial swindles. These scams have become so common the National Council on Aging has designated them “the crime of the 21st century.”
One common example involves Medicare: An impostor posing as a Medicare representative will call and explain that you need to replace or update your Medicare card. They then request personal information, including full name, date of birth and Social Security number—and in a few short minutes you’ve given that con artist virtually limitless access to your financial life and all your bank and brokerage funds. It also lets them bilk Medicare for phony services.
An even bolder example is when scammers read obituary columns and attend a funeral service. They’ll then attempt to persuade a grieving widow or widower the deceased owed them money. Other con artists call on the phone, posing as a grandson or granddaughter in trouble, begging Grandma or Grandpa to quickly wire money – for bail, rent, or some other emergency.
Still other scams involve investments, reverse mortgages and bogus lottery winnings. Anything to persuade seniors to part from their money!
While scams come in different forms, there are steps you can take to protect yourself – and your savings. The National Council on Aging offers some useful tips. Some may seem obvious, but you should never disregard them, particularly if someone is trying to rush you into coughing up cash.
- Always get any offer in writing.
- Make certain you get the salesperson’s name, business address and business license number first. Then hang up and do your research, calling back only if they check out, and you truly need whatever they’re offering.
- If they persist in calling, trying to pressure you to hand over money, hang up – then call the authorities.
- Shred all documents with your credit card number. If you need to keep them, make sure they’re under lock and key.
- Never give out your Social Security number, banking information, Medicare information, or any other personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
- Be sure to read all contract information and understand all refund and cancellation provisions. If it’s for more money that you can afford to lose, you can’t afford not to consult an attorney.
Unfortunately, the news gets uglier yet. The National Council of Aging also warns that a shocking ninety percent of all senior financial abuse is committed by the victims’ family members. So while you need to be on guard against unscrupulous strangers who would pillage your nest egg, you should also be wary of having joint checking and joint-tenants accounts.
Understand too that, before scammers got to you, they did some thinking – and plotting. They already know what you should appreciate: in the U.S. those over fifty control seventy percent of the wealth. You’ve worked too hard for your money to give up the safety and financial security of your senior years.