Elder Fraud and Financial Exploitation: What Consumers Should Know
As seen on The Rhode Show
Sadly, financial exploitation is one of the fastest growing forms of abuse against seniors and adults with disabilities. These scams take two basic forms; either a trusted friend, family member or service provider exploiting the financial resources of a senior, or a scam manipulating a senior into sending money to a criminal.
What are some of the most common scams?
It is important to always be vigilant, and stay educated on the ways in which scammers may try and take advantage of your finances. Here are a few common examples of scams to be aware of, which can often involve multiple channels, like texting, phone calls and the internet:
- Fake Troubles Scam – Sometimes called the “grandparent scam”: The con artist gets the victim to wire or send money on the pretext that a relative is in the hospital, jailed or in trouble and needs the money. Scammers may mine social media for your personal information in order to make the call more convincing and will try to keep you on the phone while you send them the money.
- Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams - This simple scheme involves scammers informing an elderly adult that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes of some kind and need to make some sort of payment to unlock the supposed prize. Often, seniors will be sent a check that they can deposit in their bank account, with scammers knowing that while it shows up in their account immediately, it will take a few days before the (fake) check is rejected. During that time, the criminals will quickly collect money for supposed fees or taxes on the prize.
- Romance Scams –Individuals, male or female, are targeted by criminal groups who exploit them through a fake romance, slowly building up trust and a seemingly real relationship while using that built trust to steal information about their identity or exploit it for financial gain. Oftentimes, these people will be used as “mules” to pass fraudulent money through their accounts. If money is requested, the requests will often start out small and build in size and “urgency” of the need.
How can consumers protect themselves against scams?
- Don’t wire money. Wiring money is like sending cash. Once you send it, you usually can’t get it back. Don’t wire money even if someone sends you a check, tells you to deposit it, and wire some of the money back to them. That’s a fake check scam, and the bank will want you to repay the money you withdrew and sent. That may also be a money mule scam that will involve you in moving money stolen from someone else.
- Don’t pay with a gift card. Gift cards are for gifts. As soon as you tell someone the numbers on the back of the gift card, they get control of the card and your money is gone forever. No legitimate business or government agency will insist that you pay with a gift card.
- Don’t pay with cryptocurrency. If someone requires you to pay for something with Bitcoin, Ether, or some other type of cryptocurrency, they’re probably a scammer. Cryptocurrency payments don’t come with legal protections. If you pay with cryptocurrency, you usually can’t get your money back unless the person you paid sends it back.
- Don’t give anyone access to your online banking. If you do, scammers may transfer money between your accounts and then try to make you believe the transfer is actually an errant refund that you need to return. If you do send funds to them, you probably won’t be able to get them back.
- Don’t be intimidated. If someone tells you to lie or hide the circumstances of a transaction from your friends, family or your bank, they don’t have your best interests in mind. They know that if you tell someone what’s happening, they’ll be found out and ruin their scheme. Talk to a family member or your Washington Trust Banker before making large financial decisions or sending money to anyone you don’t know or haven’t met in person.
Vigilance and education are key. Never send money to an individual whom you have never met. Ask questions and independently verify everything. When in doubt, say no.
Maintain the security and confidentiality of your financial records by properly disposing of sensitive documents and be careful what personal details you share online and don’t use those details for security questions or passwords.
If you have someone assisting you with your finances, review your bank statements to make sure you understand the payments being made, or have another trusted advisor provide a second look.
IF you have any questions or concerns, you can always contact a Washington Trust Banker.
Contact a Trusted Advisor
For more information or to speak with one of our trusted advisors about your unique financial needs, contact us at 800-465-2265 or submit an online form.