Fraud is on the rise
Unfortunately, we live in a world where financial scams targeting the elderly are on the rise. According to True Link Financial (a west coast firm specializing in fraud protection for seniors and their families), millions of older Americans fall victim to criminal scams resulting in a loss of over $36 billion1 annually. The good news, however, is that many of these crimes are actually preventable if you know what to look for.
First, know the scams
- Grandparent scam: Scammers call or email posing as a grandchild/family member in distress who needs money (usually via gift card or cash) immediately.
- Romance scam: Criminals using dating websites, apps, or social media build rapport and trust—and then start asking for money.
- Lottery/inheritance scam: Fraudsters send fake letters or emails telling people they must pay an up-front fee to claim the prize.
- Imposter scams: A criminal calls pretending to be from Fidelity Investments or another financial company (like your bank) and requests you send them back a one-time passcode that the criminal has generated through fraudulent web activity (e.g., trying to reset your password).
- Tech support scams: A criminal claims to be from a well-known company and requests remote access to your computer, wanting you to believe you have a serious problem. Once on your computer, they install malware that captures all your keystrokes and ask you to pay a ransom to make it stop, or attempt to launder money through your account.
Next, prevent a scam or stop a fraud in progress
- In EVERY scenario, the absolute first thing to do is stop communication with the criminal immediately.
- Make sure you have discussions with your loved ones about scams, phishing emails, and junk emails on a regular basis.
- Identify red flags—a drastic rise in expenses, adding authorized users to accounts, changing beneficiaries, or the sudden development of a significant relationship (online or otherwise).
- Never share account access credentials with anyone.
- Talk to your elderly loved ones about adding a trusted contactLog In Required to their accounts, including any held at Fidelity. If there's a concern about suspicious activity in the elder person's account and the elder person can't be reached, the financial institution can reach out to the trusted contact instead. Trusted contacts don’t have authority to act on the account holder's behalf or engage in activity on the account, but could add another layer of vigilance against scams.
- Add a power of attorney to accounts where appropriate.
- Consider credit freezes and elder protection monitoring services like EverSafe.
Finally, if you or a loved one suspect a scam is occurring, take the steps suggested by one of the agencies below:
- Fraud alert credit freeze:
- AARP fraud watch network
- Consumer finance protection bureau resources for older adults
- Federal Trade Commission OnGuard online scam alerts & security tips
- Submit an online complaint to the FBI