According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center of the FBI, fraud against older Americans would cost more than $966 million in 2020. (IC3). Criminals are increasingly using internet frauds to target older folks, especially those who live alone, both in the United States and abroad.
Cons and fraud may have a noticeable impact on money. You might lose the money you were saving for retirement, planning to leave to family members, or utilizing it for daily expenses such as paying bills and buying groceries. These financial losses can diminish your feeling of well-being and lead to problems such as sleeplessness, appetite loss, depression, anxiety, and relationship challenges.
Regardless of the amount of money you lose, being targeted by fraudsters can impair your mental health and alter your perspective of the world. If someone you trusted cheated on you, you could experience shock, pain, and perhaps trauma.
Scams perpetrated by ostensibly respectable businesses may leave you feeling furious and ashamed. You may even feel a sense of denial. How could anyone be so ready to lie and exploit others?
Sometimes it might be difficult to face the facts, but know that you are not alone and that being a victim of fraud is not your fault. Also, be aware that there are techniques to repair mental scars and prevent future scams. And if you feel that a loved one has been exploited, there are things you may take to assist them.
The Mental And Emotional Effects Of Financial Fraud
Financial fraud affects more than simply your bank account. In addition to these mental and emotional impacts, you may also experience:
Anxiety: Once you have been a victim of fraud, you may feel the need to be hypervigilant. The world might suddenly appear less secure. Perhaps you see other individuals to be dangerous, cunning, and full of ill will. Additionally, your sense of self may be disrupted. You may suddenly consider yourself to be susceptible and an easy target. Anxiety can damage your mental and physical health in the following ways:
- Accelerating cognitive deterioration.
- Degrading the immune system
- Increasing blood pressure and affecting cardiovascular health as a whole.
- You are directed into dangerous coping techniques, such as alcohol and drug abuse.
Shame: You may feel humiliated because you were defrauded. You may be cautious about discussing the facts of the occurrence with loved ones out of concern that they would question your judgment or attempt to limit your financial freedom.
Grief. You may lament the loss of your financial stability, your independence, or your faith in others. You might lament the loss of a personal connection if you were duped by a trusted friend or through a romance scam. You may also experience cycles of wrath, sadness, and numbness.
Any of these feelings might cause someone to isolate themselves. Some victims of fraud become too fearful of leaving the house, too embarrassed to speak with close friends, or too jaded to pursue new connections. Nevertheless, loneliness has its own mental health repercussions, including sadness and cognitive deterioration.
How To Recognize Scams Of Elder Fraud
Fraudsters are resourceful yet immoral. Thus, they are eager to abuse others in a variety of ways. The first step in preventing elder fraud is to detect the prevalent financial scams that target seniors.
Romantic frauds: Typically, these sorts of frauds occur online. A con artist will take a false identity and contact you via social media or a dating app. The con artist would next establish rapport with you by giving fictitious facts about their condition and asking you questions about your life. They will pretend to share common interests with you in order to increase your confidence. If you propose a face-to-face encounter, the con artist will usually provide an excuse, such as being out of town. At some time throughout your conversations, they will seek cash assistance. They may state that they are having a medical emergency or another form of crisis.
Tech support scam: Scammers posing as tech support personnel use false phone calls, emails, text messages, and internet pop-up windows to lure victims. They will inform you that your computer has a security hole or other issue and offer to help you remedy it. Then, they will request that you offer them personal information, money, or remote access to your computer.
Grandparental scams: Some con artists take a more intimate approach by posing as your grandkids or other members of your family. They frequently phone their targets and ask for money to escape terrible situations, such as legal issues. These con artists conduct research on their victims, allowing them to utilize family names and personal details to gain your confidence.
Government impersonation schemes: Some con artists pose as government entities such as Medicare, the Internal Revenue Service, or the Social Security Administration (SSA). They contact you via phone calls, emails, and text messages, claiming you owe money to the government or must provide personal information. These scam artists may threaten you with penalties or jail time to force you to respond immediately.
Fake prize scams: Scammers may approach you, claiming that you have won a contest or lottery. They will state that you must supply personal information or send money to cover “shipping” costs. Occasionally, these con artists may mail you a phony check and request that you transfer the money.
Home repair fraud: These contractors come to your house or phone to provide repair services, such as installing new windows or renovating your bathroom. In certain instances, they want upfront payment or attempt to get you to sign a loan agreement. After receiving payment, they leave without performing any job.
Investment scams: Through real estate investing seminars and coaching programs, scammers may claim to assist you in making money. Their basic argument is that with their “proven” and “risk-free” tactics, you can amass a fortune. Even phony testimonials and reviews may be used to gain your faith. Obviously, their fraudulent proposals will demand you to make an investment.
Caregiver financial elder fraud: Not all con artists are total strangers. Sometimes trustworthy family members or caretakers take advantage of the elderly financially. These might range from stealing cash directly from your handbag to requesting funds to meet fictitious charges.
Identifying Commons Signs Of Scams
Many of the aforementioned elder scam schemes share similar characteristics. Here are some warning signs to assist you in identifying fraudulent behavior:
You have received unexpected and unwanted contact from a well-known organization. Some con artists attempt to gain your trust by acting as familiar institutions, such as government agencies and well-known enterprises. Online, they may send emails that appear authentic and drive users to websites that resemble official sites. Their true names or phone numbers may not appear on your caller ID when they call.
You win a contest you didn’t enter. You may have gotten a message stating that you are “today’s fortunate winner.” Recently, did you enter a contest? Who entered contests or giveaways on your behalf? If not, you are probably dealing with a scam artist. Take a minute to examine the situation’s veracity if it appears implausibly favorable.
You’re told there’s a problem with your account. Online con artists frequently send emails claiming that you must verify or amend account information. Ask yourself, “Are there any grounds for believing this to be true?” Note that these false texts frequently contain evident typographical or grammatical faults.
You feel pressured to take action immediately. All sorts of con artists attempt to obtain your money and personal information before you have a chance to think critically. Government impersonators will threaten legal action against you. Criminals impersonating your grandkids will insist that they need money immediately. Con artists in the business and investment sectors will claim that their offer is going to expire.
You’re given oddly specific instructions on payment. Fraudsters may request that you pay them through a gift card, wire transfer, or another non-negotiable means. The majority of legal organizations provide several payments and buying options.
You’re asked to keep secrets. A romantic con artist may request that you keep your connection a secret. Someone posing as your grandchild may urge you not to inform their parents. Their objective is to prevent you from contacting someone who can disclose their deceptions.
How To Protect Yourself From Scams And Fraud
Avoid making impulsive financial judgments is one of the most critical stages in safeguarding yourself. Do not feel compelled to answer immediately to any offers or demands, particularly if you have doubts about the validity of the individual contacting you. Remember that reputable firms and government agencies will not press you to make a snap decision.
Here are some additional methods for avoiding online, telephone, and in-person fraudsters:
- Preventing online cons
- Do not click on links or attachments in strange emails or text messages.
- Ensure that your security software is current.
- Never transmit money to a stranger, especially after establishing a connection online.
- Be aware of internet acquaintances who quickly declare their love for you or beg you to keep your connection a secret.
- Examine domain names carefully. Scammers may utilize website names that differ slightly from those of legitimate sites.
- Remember that federal entities such as the IRS will not start contact by email, social media, or text message.
- Consider making your social media profiles private so that only your friends can view your information. If your accounts are public, you should refrain from sharing personal information.
- If you are unsure whether an online message is genuinely from a business, such as a bank, you may want to phone their official number or visit a local location.
Avoiding Phone Scams
- If someone encourages you over the phone to make an immediate payment, tell them you need time to consider it and will answer later.
- If the possible fraudster claims to be a family member, contact other family members or close acquaintances. They can assist you in verifying the veracity of the tale.
- Do not presume that the caller ID is accurate. Some con artists can impersonate legitimate phone numbers to trick you.
- Ignore unsolicited calls or emails informing you that you’ve won a reward but must first supply personal information.
- Do not provide sensitive information such as your social security number or bank account number through phone or email.
- Be aware of texts requesting that you pay for anything with a gift card.
Avoiding in-person scams
- Do not invite strangers into your house, particularly if you live alone.
- Do not expose your valuables to public view.
- If someone claims to represent a company and visits your home, request their contact information. Inform them that you will investigate their offer later.
- Never sign a check with a blank amount payable.
What To Do If You’ve Been Scammed
If you realize you’ve fallen victim to a scam, you must immediately cease all communication with the perpetrator. Keep an eye out for odd behavior on your bank account and other personal accounts. If you suspect that your online accounts have been compromised, you should change your passwords.
While the experience is still fresh in your mind, record whatever you can recall about it. For instance, if you were the victim of a door-to-door con artist, record the person’s appearance and the company they claimed to represent. Additionally, record the date and time. All of this information may be valuable for filing a report in the future.
Consider Making Contact With:
- Your bank or other financial organizations, such as a firm that issues gift cards or a wire transfer service. They may be able to cancel or reverse unauthorized transactions or at the very least, monitor your accounts.
- Government organizations. In the United States, for instance, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) collects data on fraudulent activities. Other nations have comparable institutions.
- dependable loved ones Friends and relatives may provide emotional support as well as practical advice on how to manage the issue.
- Neighbors. If the con artist went door-to-door, you should go out to your neighbors or other individuals who may have been victimized.
- Local law enforcement. If the fraudster is targeting local citizens, local police may be able to assist.
- Credit bureaus (such as Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax in the United States) or the Social Security Administration. These organizations may mitigate the harm caused by identity thieves who steal your personal information, such as your social security number.
If the fraudster impersonated a reputable business or government organization, you might also choose to contact them. The company or government agency can then tell the public.
Taking Care Of Your Mental Health
In addition to safeguarding your personal finances after becoming a victim of fraud, you need also take care of your emotional health. Financial fraud may be a devastating experience; thus, it is essential to prioritize emotional rehabilitation.
Permit oneself to experience bad feelings. You may feel irritated on certain days or numb and despondent on others after the experience. The strength of the emotions may appear to fluctuate frequently. This is a typical and natural aspect of the mourning process. Find appropriate outlets for your emotions, such as writing in a notebook or utilizing the free Emotional Intelligence Tool from HelpGuide.
Be courteous to yourself. After the experience, you can feel burdened down by negative self-talk. Perhaps your inner critic asks, “How could I be so gullible as to fall for anything like that?” You may consider yourself to be gullible, nave, or reckless. Contradict your negative self-talk with more rational views. Begin by reassuring yourself that anybody may be duped. Recognize that sole responsibility lies with the con artist.
Attend to your health. Plan your days so that you can adhere to a regimen. Schedule nutritious meals, decent sleep, consistent exercise, and time for your favorite pastimes. All of this can help you feel in charge of your life and preserve your physical and emotional health.
Control your tension. Utilize stress-reduction strategies such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization exercises. These might be particularly beneficial if you have difficulty falling asleep at night. Consider incorporating yoga or tai chi into your daily schedule in order to reduce your stress levels.
Engage with others. You are not alone in navigating your emotions. It is an excellent moment to seek out a trustworthy family member or friend. If you feel comfortable discussing your story with them, they may be able to sympathize or provide guidance. However, even if you do not choose to discuss the matter, you might still benefit from being among caring others.
Disclosure Of Financial Abuse
If you or a loved one need to report fraud, you can contact Adult Protective Services (APS) in the United States or a comparable organization in your country. These social assistance initiatives safeguard the elderly against financial exploitation and other sorts of mistreatment.
When filing a report, be prepared to include as much detail as possible. Collect details such as:
- Name of suspects or witnesses.
- Date, time, and frequency of the incidents.
- Location of the incident.
- Description of the scam.
Emails and direct messages might give a substantial amount of this information if the fraudulent behavior occurred online. However, keep in mind not to click on strange links when perusing the mails.
If the financial abuse occurred at a nursing home or assisted living facility, contact the administrator of the institution and alert them of the problem. You can also contact a Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) to advocate on your loved one’s behalf. In extreme cases, such as when a caregiver threatens you or a loved one, contact the local police.
Additionally, you should take measures to alleviate any ongoing or potential financial harm. This might entail reporting the scam to your bank or other financial organizations.
How Adult Children Can Help Protect Their Aging Parents
Whether your elderly parents or other relatives reside at home, in an assisted living facility, or on their own, it is crucial to be on the lookout for symptoms of possible financial exploitation. Keep in mind that con artists are not necessarily strangers. Additionally, a senior’s trust might be exploited by caregivers, acquaintances, and even another family.
Here are warning signs that your parents or elderly loved ones are being abused financially:
- Unidentified withdrawals from their bank accounts.
- The loss of personal property, cash, checkbooks, debit, or credit cards.
- Unpaid invoices.
- Signature variations on papers and checks.
- Changes to their wills, powers of attorney, or other legal instruments are not typical.
- Their assets are moved unexpectedly.
- Payments for services or products not utilized.
- They start a relationship with someone anonymously online.
- A caretaker appears to limit their ability to communicate.
Talking To Your Loved One About Fraud
If you believe the love interest or trusted caregiver of a parent to be a scam artist, you may find yourself in a difficult situation. How can you persuade a parent or loved one to be cautious?
Instead of saying, “I have a horrible feeling about this individual,” provide proof to support your suspicions. For instance, you may show your mother her bank account’s unusual activity. Alternately, you may inform your father that it is uncommon for an internet stranger to make love advances before meeting in person.
Consider emailing your parent articles and other materials that explain prevalent fraudulent tactics. As cautionary stories, accounts of how others have been defrauded may serve.
Expect resistance, particularly if your parent has an emotional investment in a relationship or places a great deal of faith in a caretaker. You may require many tries to convince them that anything is wrong. However, a little patience on your side might aid in preventing financial and emotional ramifications for your loved one.
Offering Emotional Support following fraud
Numerous seniors suffer from the shame associated with fraud. They are too embarrassed or humiliated to discuss the incident in depth. However, be willing to listen if they choose to speak.
Instead of criticizing how they should have handled the circumstance, adopt a non-judgmental stance. Encourage the development of self-compassion. Inform them that even the most cautious individuals might find themselves in such circumstances.
Offer to assist them with anything they may require. They may not want your cash assistance or assistance in reporting the fraud. They may not even be interested in discussing the matter. That’s okay. Simply do whatever you can to empower them and remind them of the good in the world. If doing errands for them will alleviate their tension, do it. If they are in need of a distraction or fresh experience, make arrangements with them.
Remember that your loved one is likely experiencing some amount of loss; thus, allow them time to digest the event and their feelings. If they respond to you with fury, you should not take it personally. Those who have feelings of hopelessness frequently exhibit aggressive behavior. Have faith that, with your assistance, they will ultimately feel better.
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