Protecting our elders

Young woman's hand on elderly man's hand

As much as we try to avoid sad topics, occasionally they just can’t be avoided. There is a growing trend of scams and schemes that are targeted against older Americans, and more and more of them are finding success. Not only are these schemes coming from the usual sources such as junk mail and e-mail, but there has also been a rise in scams or financial abuse perpetrated by the victim’s own family or friends. As the nation’s average age continues to trend upwards, this group is getting larger and becoming more vulnerable to slick talkers and clever scams designed to rob them of their hard-earned money.

Elder abuse occurs all too frequently in the financial services world, where people’s concern, confusion, or generosity is exploited to gain access to their money. This can occur through phone calls where a scammer might claim to be a relative (often a grandchild) of the victim who is either injured or imprisoned in a foreign country and needs money wired to them to help bail them out or pay medical expenses. This can occur through phony emails or junk mail that seek out banking information as well. Other times, it is a relative seeking to take advantage of someone that may not understand what they are doing. They abuse the trust that comes with being a family member, and use that to get the elderly to write them checks, or give them access to their bank accounts or other property using deceit or abusing the perhaps diminished capacity of the victim.

The State of Iowa is working on advancing laws against this type of crime, and hopefully will continue to take actions to heighten the penalties, and increase awareness as well. But there are things that can be done today if you believe that something is going on with an elderly person in your life. It may be a neighbor, or relative, but you may be their best chance to stop things before they get worse!

If you need more information on this topic, check out Iowa’s Department of Human Services page on Dependent Adult Abuse to find resources (here), and ways to report, or call them at 1-800-362-2178.

For more information on common scams:
National Council on Aging: Top 10 Scams Targeting Seniors
FBI: Common Fraud Schemes Targeting Senior Citizens