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If you have a senior you care for, we are starting a brand-new series just for you. We will provide essential information and resources for seniors in your life. Many times, financial and other issues faced by seniors can go overlooked or unnoticed. We'll share tips to help you identify potential problems.

This month, we start by focusing on scams that target seniors and how to guard against them. Scammers like to target seniors because they assume that the seniors are vulnerable, unfamiliar with technology, easy to take advantage of, or don't have anyone helping them make critical financial decisions. However, with the information below, you or someone you care about will be better prepared for these types of scams.

Tips For Caregivers

If you care for a senior, it may be stressful balancing their financial independence with protecting their assets. Depending on the level of care you provide, you may not always be around to help with critical financial decisions or to watch out for suspicious activity. The person you are assisting may not always be open to oversight. However, below are a few red flags to watch out for as you help your loved one.

  1. Missing check numbers in the check register - Whether you are handling the daily finances of your elderly loved one or not, you might want to sneak a peek at the check register. Missing numbers in the check register could mean someone has been stealing checks.

  2. Sudden financial problems - If your financially stable loved one suddenly has rising debt, elder fraud could be to blame. The sooner you uncover the scam, the greater the chances of recouping the money, so time is of the essence.

  3. Piles of gift cards - From IRS scams to phony sweepstakes claims, various forms of fraud have one thing in common. Victims are often asked to pay in gift cards, and seeing them around could be an indicator.

  4. A change in mood - If your formerly reserved widowed mother is giggling like a schoolgirl, she might be a victim of a catfishing fraud. And if your usually outgoing father is suddenly withdrawn and sullen, he may have fallen for a scam targeting the elderly. A sudden change in mood should always be cause for concern and reason for further investigation.

  5. Strange mail - Men and women who have been victimized by fraud may find themselves on so-called sucker lists. Being listed can vastly increase the amount of junk mail they receive, including sweepstakes prize notifications, fake Social Security documents, and other questionable materials.

  6. Your loved one has a new best friend - Friendship is essential for older people, and having close relationships can improve health and well-being. But if your loved one has a new best friend, you might want to get to know the person. Scammers often target the elderly, befriending them, and gaining their trust before springing their costly traps.

  7. Changing behavior from other family members - Sometimes, elder fraud happens close to home, and it is important to watch out for the warning signs. If valuables are missing or cash is disappearing, a hired caregiver or live-in relative could be responsible.

  8. Checks made out to cash - made out to cash may be "gifts"; to romantic partners, caregivers, or others with ill intent, and the same goes for large cash withdrawals. Even if the withdrawals and payments are legitimate, it never hurts to ask.

  9. Forged signatures on financial documents - Make a practice of taking a close look at bank statements, including copies of cleared checks. If any signatures seem strange or you don't recognize the handwriting, talk to your loved one about it. Be sure to follow up with the bank if you suspect forgery, which is a serious crime that should be fully investigated by local law enforcement.

  10. Major changes in estate planning documents - If an older person in your life suddenly changes their will or updates their estate plan for no good reason, you may want to do some research. A new friend or caregiver may have talked your parent or grandparent into naming them as a beneficiary or putting them in the will. While those changes may be legitimate, they could also be warning signs of financial abuse.

If you or someone you love is concerned about current scams targeting the elderly, you should check out the FBI’s website on elder fraud

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