Every major news outlet runs stories from time to time about the latest scams. The news stories somehow don’t seem to penetrate the problem very well. A study by TrueLink tells us that over $36 billion is stolen from elders every year in the U.S. Your aging parents are particularly vulnerable for a number of reasons.
Aging parents may be lonely, may want to talk to a friendly voice on the phone, may be forgetful and can be altogether too trusting. They may also be naive about Internet scams. These are among the reasons scammers love your elders as targets. Here are some tips from AARP on best ways to protect them and yourself from scams.
- Check your loved one’s wallet. They should not be carrying their Social Security cards around with them. It’s too easy to steal and the card is a key that unlocks a huge amount of personal data. Likewise, don’t let them carry around sensitive information on slips of paper like passwords, PIN numbers and other things that would make a thief joyful in grabbing them.
- Don’t use copy machines in public places like libraries. Many machines are leased and the copy machines are sold when the leases are up. Assume that no one wipes the hard drive before getting rid of the copy machine. Scammers who buy them would then have access to all the internal hard drive stored documents like medical records, tax returns and other highly personal items. It would be more secure to purchase an inexpensive copier for your elder’s use than to take this risk.
- Warn your loved ones about the incessant scammer trick of trying to intimidate their targets buy making threats and insisting that if they don’t pay by wire transfer, gift card or reloadable cash card, dire consequences will follow. This is used by thieves posing as IRS agents on the phone, those posing as court employees saying someone did not show up for jury duty, fake utility company tricksters pretending to be able to cut off someone’s heat, and many others.
- If your aging parent uses a computer or smart phone, be sure to teach them about using a PIN number or passcode for the smart phone. Better yet, if the phone has the capability, fingerprint ID protection is very helpful. If they have a computer, teach them to use both a password to access it and to use long passwords on any accounts.
There are a lot of ways to help when you are the adult child, presumably more skilled and aware of the risks of phone and Internet theft. If you want to keep your aging parent safer, be a little nosy and get involved in how they use technology. In my family, my husband uses remote access software to check on his 94-year-old mother’s computer activity every week. So far, so good, no Internet thefts. Here at AgingParents.com, we work to help families avert abuse and other dangers. A few small protections like these could save the nightmare of identify theft that affects so many.