What Can I Do to Protect My Parents from Financial Scams?

Written by | Updated May 9, 2019

Education is one of the best ways to combat financial scams. Teach your parents what to watch out for to help them avoid becoming victims.

Financial scams against seniors are becoming increasingly common. They are so common, in fact, that the National Council on Aging calls them the “crime of the 21st century.”1 Protecting your parents from financial abuse starts with knowing the most common types of senior scams and what to watch out for. You then need to educate your parents on some of the warning signs of scam artists.

Common Financial Scams Against Seniors

1. Medicare Scams: Scammers pose as Medicare representatives or insurance agents and attempt to get individuals to hand over personal information. They then use this information to bill Medicare for fake services and keep the money for themselves.

2. Funeral Scams: While all elder financial abuse is sad and unfortunate, funeral and cemetery scams are especially low. The scammers will read obituaries and then attend the funerals of the people they read about, attempting to take advantage of grieving widows and widowers. They may claim there is unpaid debt and attempt to extort the money. Since the grieving person is in an emotionally fragile state, they are less likely to put up a good fight.

Another type of funeral scam involves the operators of funeral homes taking advantage of mourning families by adding fraudulent charges to the bill or increasing the prices of services and goods significantly.

3. Phone and Telemarketing Scams: These scams are common even among younger age groups. Fake telemarketers will call and make a variety of claims to get the target person to send money or purchase some product that doesn’t exist. They may claim to be a charity asking for donations or say that a loved one needs money to cover medical expenses.

4. Internet Scams: Because seniors may be less familiar with basic internet security practices, they may fall victim to viruses and online scams. It can be easy to trick the less tech-literate into downloading fake antivirus programs that promise to keep them safe, for example. It’s important to educate your parents about proper online safety practices.

Educate Your Parents

Preventing these types of financial elder abuse comes down to education.

Seniors must know the warning signs of phone scams—like someone asking for sensitive information—and be coached on how to say no even under pressure.

Your parents should also have at least a basic understanding of online safety and what sort of things to avoid clicking on, like email attachments from unknown senders, for example.

The more information you can give your parents, the better. Empowering them to be aware of elderly financial abuse and financial scams will give them a new degree of independence. To help them achieve independence in other areas of life as well, check out our resource of tips and tools that promote self-sufficiency for older adults.

  1. National Council on Aging, “Top 10 Financial Scams Targeting Seniors
Image of father and adult son sitting on sofa at home and using a digital tablet together.