Money Matters: Protect seniors from fraud

Reported by: Brittany Price
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Updated: 8/09/2012 5:04 am
Between discarded mail and so-called free prize phone calls, the chances of fraud are high among senior citizens.

"It can devastate them," Wendi Edwards with Adult Protective Services said.

Edwards said there are reasons seniors are specifically at risk.

"Sometimes they're living alone and they're very trusting. That makes them an easy target at times for scams, fraud and financial exploitation," Edwards said.  

However, you don't have to be one of them. You can take some simple precautions, like being alert for suspicious phone calls asking for personal information.

"Be wise about it and talk to family members you trust before you make any type of a donation, cash a check, or sign anything. Try to be wise and don't ever give out your social security number, bank number, account number, anything like that," Edwards said.  

If you don't check it out the impact could wipe you out.

"MetLife did a study last year that showed the impact of financial loss to seniors is about $2.9 billion a year," Tracy Baugh, Home Instead Franchise Owner said.

That's a 12 percent increase since 2008. Baugh said often the scammers will lie right to your face.

"If someone comes and they want to do some home repairs. Do your homework and check that person out. Make sure that their business is legitimate because we've seen people who have been scammed," Baugh said.  

Fortunately there are tools for protection in the form of a free kit online. The no-charge resource educates seniors on scams like telemarketing, fake charities, sweepstakes, health-care fraud and identity theft.

"The checklist we have included in the kit also talks about the anatomy of a scam. Although the scams can change, the basic anatomy will not. Whether it's mail, internet, or phone scams the checklist covers all of that. It will tell how to detect fraud, how to report something and how to protect yourself," Baugh said.  

Edwards added, getting educated can help dodge devastating scams.

"It's heartbreaking because these people have worked all their lives for that. They come from a time when your handshake was your word. Times have changed.," Edwards said.

It's vital for scam victims to report the incident immediately to the police department.

If you're interested in protecting yourself or a loved one, access the free online fraud prevention kit online.

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