Preventing Fraud

Now that you know about the most common elder scams, let’s look at how to prevent them from happening in the first place. If your mom is like most of our parents, she hates being told what to do, and if she has already been scammed she is not going to admit it. So basically scolding her may not work very well.

We think the best approach is in two parts: First, make sure she hears about the kinds of scams in the previous article and understands some basic principles. Try saying “gosh, I heard about some really horrible elder scams in the news” and tell her about the kinds of things scammers are up to these days. Specifically make sure she understands:

- Banks and credit card companies never call asking for card numbers, pin codes, or passwords. If she is ever in doubt, she should hang up and call the company back using the number printed on the card or on her statement (or call you!).
- Government agencies never call people’s homes, and certainly never ask for immediate payment.
- Scammers can fake Caller IDs and copy websites that look just like the real ones.
- She should never sign any documents without understanding them, and she should especially be careful if someone is pushing her to do something quickly. Ask her to run anything by you or another trustworthy family member.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.

The second part is for you to take some steps that make it harder for scams to happen and easier for you to see them if they do.

- With your mom’s permission, add her phone number to the Federal Do Not Call Registry and also add her address to the DMA Choice site. That will cut down drastically on the number of telemarketing calls and junk mail she receives, which will also make it easier to spot the scams. Folks who still call or send marketing letters are more likely to be scammers
- Again, with your mom’s permission, get online access to her bank and credit card statements. Scan through them each month and ask her about any new or unusual charges
- Simplify her financial affairs by closing unneeded cards and accounts which will make it easier for both of you to keep an eye on things
- Keep sensitive documents like bank statements in a locked cabinet