Protecting Seniors from Fraud
by Nancy Osborne, COO of ERATE®
Dec 28, 2007 - Tragically seniors make up almost 30% of all fraud victims. Almost 5 million seniors fall prey to financial fraud and ID theft each year. Seniors may be attractive targets of criminals because they may be isolated and lonely and therefore more easily confused and persuaded into doing something by a fast talking scam artist. Seniors may also be more trusting of seemingly nice people and may have more difficulty seeing through a smooth talker's scheme. It is important to protect the seniors in your life from becoming targets by being proactive and taking steps to prevent fraud before falling victim to it. The following are some precautions for seniors to take and guidelines for their loved ones and caregivers to consider:
Identity Theft –
- You may now freeze out criminals by freezing access to your credit information. This is an important tool for seniors to take advantage of because they are less likely to have the need to apply for new credit at a later stage of life. Be sure to take advantage of and utilize this important safeguard.
- Also make certain all important personal information is shredded before it goes into the garbage as thieves frequently target garbage cans to obtain personal information they can abuse.
- Never share your personal information with anyone contacting you over the phone. If someone you are expecting to contact you requesting personal information calls, get their contact information and call them back to verify they are who they say they are. If someone contacts you out of the blue asking for sensitive personal information your radar should be on high alert, just hang up.
- Ask for any offers made over the phone to be provided to you in writing and never agree to or accept anything over the phone. Always give yourself a cooling off period before making a hasty decision you may later regret. So called “time sensitive” offers are the stock and trade of scam artists so be prepared in advance to deflect this ploy.
Mail Fraud –
- Toss out any sweepstakes and prize claims or any unofficial mail that requires a response from you. Get off these mailing lists by opting out: remove your name from consumer mailing lists. You can opt out by contacting credit bureaus, direct marketing organizations and publications and ask that your name be dropped from their mailing lists. Call 1-888-5OPTOUT or visit https://www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailing
- Anything that reaches your mail box via bulk mail is more than likely junk, toss it or better yet recycle it if possible. It's a waste of both your time as well as environmental resources.
Ringing Doorbells –
- Of course you should never open the door to someone you don't know or weren't expecting, even someone who claims they are there to check on a service for you such as phone, cable or power. No one should ever come to your door unannounced and you should contact your service provider first to verify whether or not the person at your door was truly sent officially before allowing them into your home.
- Never buy anything from someone who shows up unannounced at your door. Even the Girl Scouts refrain from selling cookies door-to-door today and instead peddle their cookies at grocery stores and in front of other retailers.
Home Improvement and Repair Fraud –
- Never pay someone upfront for a service to be provided in the future. And never agree to pay someone for a job before it's complete. Use a credit card for payment whenever possible because you will always have recourse in the event something goes wrong. Today any legitimate business should be able to accommodate payment by credit card.
- Only use service providers or contractors who are bonded, licensed and insured. Ask for references and request bids from more than one company.
Nancy Osborne has had experience in the mortgage business for over 20 years and is a founder of both ERATE, where she is currently the COO and Progressive Capital Funding, where she served as President. She has held real estate licenses in several states and has received both the national Certified Mortgage Consultant and Certified Residential Mortgage Specialist designations. Ms. Osborne is also a primary contributing writer and content developer for ERATE.
"I am addicted to Bloomberg TV" says Nancy.