MICHIGAN — A new survey from AARPfound nearly one in five caregivers reported that their loved ones lost money to a scheme.
According to the findings, 19 percent of caregivers faced the issue. Of that percentage, 52 percent of the older adults lost $1,000 or more.
Amy Goyer, AARP’s family and caregiving expert, says in addition to the financial impacts, fraud creates emotional distress too.
“It’s a terrible feeling,” said Amy Goyer, AARP’s family and caregiving expert. “You feel that you’ve been victimized.”
The research found top cons include government imposter scams, where a person pretends to be form an agency, like the IRS, to gain an older adult’s personal information, utility scams, where a person poses as a utility representative and threatens to shut off services, and grandparent scams, where a person acts as a loved one in trouble.
All include a sense of urgency.
“To someone, especially older adults, $1,000 is a great deal of money, especially if you’re on a fixed income,” said Goyer.
While it may be uncomfortable to ask a parent or grandparent if they were targeted or if they know about the latest fraud trends, experts say it’s necessary since older adults lose more money than younger victims at a time in their lives when it’s difficult to recover financially.
“It’s really just talking and being honest and really trying to not have any shame in it,” said Lisa Tyler, communications director at Senior Resources of West Michigan.
Tyler says caregivers must stress to older adults that speed and silence hurt in fraudulent situations and that any asset or identifiable details need to stay to themselves.
If a caregiver notices any warning signs, like a big, sudden change in an older adult’s behavior or financial life, Tyler suggests caregivers ask questions to learn more.
If they learn a loved one has been scammed, family and friends should approach the subject with care.
“Give them a little bit of time, try not to come at it with an anger, try to come at it calmly and be compassionate and emphatic, and if that’s not working, maybe there’s somebody else that’s trustworthy that they might want to hear it from,” said Tyler.
If money is lost, any share of information should be stopped immediately, a report should be filed with local law enforcement authorities, and any accounts compromised should be frozen.
To try and prevent a scam, Tyler recommends caregivers sign up for activity alerts or prepare a “refusal script” which lays out what to say if someone fraudulent calls an older adult.
“I think the biggest thing is really just keeping open lines of communication and encouraging them to report to you,” said Tyler.
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