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Tips from a financial counselor to protect seniors and their money

Financial counselor Brenda Pollock shares tips to avoid financial scams.

PORTLAND, Maine — Part 1

Evergreen Credit Union financial counselor Brenda Pollock says seniors are often the target of financial scams because they're believed to have more money sitting in a savings account.

Pollock started a financial exploitation seminar for seniors and shared some of the top scams to look out for.

Financial scams targeting seniors are widespread and harmful. According to Pollock, the FBI estimates that seniors lose nearly $3 billion each year to acts of financial fraud. Scammers go after seniors because they believe older adults have a significant amount of money sitting in their savings accounts, according to Pollock. And it’s not just wealthy seniors who are targeted.

Pollock suggests simplifying your finances so that there are fewer accounts to oversee and setting aside a specific time to review weekly or monthly. She said to authorize your financial institution(s) to contact one or two trusted individuals in case of suspicious financial activity.

Pollock also said to develop some method of allowing your trusted individuals to monitor your accounts online so they too can review your accounts regularly, and assign a financial power of attorney agent who can be well-prepared to step in should you become ill or disabled.

Pollock also shared the following advice:

  • Avoid online offers for coronavirus cures or faster access to vaccines. They aren't legitimate.
  • Don't click on links or download files from unexpected emails, text messages, and unfamiliar websites.
  • Don't share personal information such as Social Security, Medicare, and credit card numbers in response to an unsolicited call, text, or email.
  • Ignore phone calls or emails from strangers urging you to invest in a hot new stock from a company working on coronavirus-related products or services.
  • Don’t ever pay a fee to claim a prize you supposedly won.
  • Don’t wire money to or share gift card numbers with anyone.
  • Don’t provide personal or financial information to anyone.
  • Don’t deposit supposed winnings that come in a form of a partial payment.
  • And don’t call a number with an 876, 809, or 284 area code to confirm you’ve won a prize. Those codes belong to Caribbean countries and have become hotbeds for phone scams.

Part 2

Financial scams targeting seniors are widespread and harmful. The FBI estimates that seniors lose more than $3 billion each year to acts of financial fraud. Scammers go after seniors because they believe older adults have a significant amount of money sitting in their savings accounts. But, it’s not just wealthy seniors who are targeted. Here to discuss this topic is Evergreen’s financial counselor, Brenda Pollock.

Brenda, in part one of this series, we discussed government scams, the grandparent scam, Medicare and health insurance scams, and the fact that more than half of all financial exploitation against seniors is by relatives and caregivers.

 Financial exploitation is a fast-growing form of abuse of seniors and adults with disabilities. Amanda, by the year 2030, 20% of the total US population will be people aged 65 and older, and those aged 85 and older ranking as one of the fastest-growing populations in the country. It’s so important for seniors to be aware of the various financial abuse forms and protect themselves by knowing what to look for and who to report it to.

 Computer tech support scams prey upon people’s lack of knowledge about computers and cybercity. These scams can be very costly for their victim.

 During the pandemic, we’re doing more online – working, connecting with family and friends, shopping, and banking. So, if something goes wrong with your computer, you want to fix it right away. Scammers are preying on this, offering phony tech support services. Here’s what you should know about tech support scams.

  • They want to sell you useless services, steal your credit card number, or install malware that lets them see everything on your computer.
  • A pop-up window appears on your computer screen with a security issue message requesting you call a phone number to help. Don’t.
  • You receive an email stating your Zoom account has been suspended or you missed a meeting. If you click on the link, it will install malware.

All sounded very easy to not consider them as a potential scam. How do you avoid these tech support scams?

 Never, never, ever give control of your computer to someone who contacts you out of the blue.

Don’t click links in unsolicited pop-ups or emails. Instead, navigate to the company’s site by typing in their URL.

Maintain your anti-virus software. Use trusted anti-virus security software and make sure to update it regularly.

Recognize legitimate tech companies won’t contact you by phone, email, or text message to say there’s a problem with your computer.

Robocalls and phone scams seem to get not only seniors but anyone who has a phone. 

 Robocalls take advantage of sophisticated phone technology to dial large numbers of households from anywhere in the world. We’ve all received that call to inform us that a warranty is expiring on their car and payment is needed to renew it. Another popular robocall is the “Can you hear me?” scam. When you say yes, the scammer hangs up after recording your voice, thus obtaining a voice signature to authorize unwanted charges on items like stolen credit cards.

As more people use the Internet for dating, con artists see an opportunity to find their next victim through Romance scams. 

Romance scammers create elaborate fake profiles, often on social media, and exploit seniors’ loneliness for money. In some cases, romance scammers may (or pretend to) be overseas, and request money to pay for visas, medical emergencies, and travel expenses to come visit the U.S. Because they drag on for a long time, romance scammers can get a lot of money from a senior—the FTC found that in 2019 alone, seniors lost nearly $84 million to romance scams.

It's hard to imagine there are other scams, but there are more. You also want to make people aware of Charity scams.

Charity scams rely on seniors’ goodwill to pocket money they claim they’re raising for a good cause. Often, they use a name very similar to a legitimate charity. They capitalize on current events, such as natural disasters, and may set up a fundraising page on a crowdsourcing site. Charity scammers most likely will insist you donate immediately. Don’t. And anytime anyone asks for any payment through gift cards or money transfers, hang up the phone.

 What does one do if they suspect they are the victim of a scam?

 Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk about it with someone you trust. You are not alone, and there are people who can help.

Office of Aging and Disability Services—

Adult Protective Services

1-800-624-8404

Provides services to protect 2incapacitated and/or dependent adults.

Legal Services for the Elderly

1-800-750-5353

Provides free, high-quality legal services to Maine’s socially and economically needy elderly age 60 and over.

Local Area Agency on Aging

1-877-353-3771

Provides answers on aging and access to resources that help older and disabled adults

live well in their homes and communities.

If you have other questions or concerns, contact

a representative at your financial institution.

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