Why Seniors Don't Report Being the Victim of a Scam

Sunrise Senior Living  |  December 16, 2019
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Older adults are often the target of scams. It’s an unfortunate reality that causes adult children to worry if an aging parent’s financial well-being is at risk. Summer has typically been the busiest season for crimes against seniors. Fake home remodelers, roofers, and driveway repair companies head out in full force when the weather warms up.

There is another time of year, however, that is almost as risky as summer—tax season. Experts say identity theft and filing fraudulent tax returns cost seniors billions.

Losses from Scams Are Significant

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has detection programs that are helping to decrease losses. As of February 29, 2016, the IRS had successfully prevented 31,578 fraudulent tax returns. Their identity-theft filters helped to prevent $193.8 million in fraudulent tax refunds from being issued.

Unfortunately, older adults are still falling victim to fraud and scams. Experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) say the trusting nature of adults raised in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s is a leading reason they become victims.

When seniors do suffer a loss, many are unlikely to report it. While there are a variety of reasons why an older adult may not report the crime to authorities, here is a list of the most common reasons:

  • Embarrassment: No one wants to admit they’ve been conned. It can be embarrassing at any age. Seniors are no different. Many just want to accept their loss and move on before anyone finds out.
  • Fear: Another reason an older adult may withhold the situation from authorities and their family is out of fear. They may worry an adult child will think they are incapable of making their own decisions or managing their money. This doubt in their abilities may lead to reduced independence.
  • Unaware: An older adult might not be aware that they are the victim of a crime. Identity theft can go undetected until you apply for a credit card, car loan, or other bank loan. Then it quickly becomes obvious someone else is using your identity.

Preventing Common Scams Targeting Seniors

Prevention is the key when it comes to fraudulent scams. Here are a few tips you can use to protect an older family member:

  • Utilize telephone technology: Encourage your family member to use Caller ID for every call received, and to not answer when the number isn’t recognized. Because many scams targeting seniors begins with a phone call, utilizing Caller ID can help lower that risk. Also, make certain your senior loved one is signed up for the Do Not Call Registry on both home and cell phones.
  • Monitor credit report and credit cards: The law requires that each of the three major credit-reporting companies provide consumers with a free annual credit report. Encourage your aging loved one to take advantage of this service in order to check for irregularities. It can also help to sign up with a credit monitoring service so you are notified of any attempts to file for credit in the senior’s name. Finally, talk with your loved one’s bank and credit card companies about programs they offer. Many will send a text or email alert if the card number is used without the card being scanned or if spending amounts reach a predetermined limit.
  • Store insurance and Social Security cards: Another essential step in protecting a senior’s identity is by safely storing identifying personal information, such as insurance, Social Security, and Medicare cards. Take them out only on the days they will be required for appointments.

Resources for Caregivers

At Sunrise Senior Living communities, we know how busy the days can be for family caregivers. That’s why we make it easier to stay up-to-date on the latest trends on aging and issues affecting seniors. The Sunrise Blog is published several times each week. We cover topics ranging from tax deductions for family caregivers to the latest research on senior nutrition. Bookmark the blog and stop by often!

If you would like to visit a Sunrise community in person, our doors are always open. Call 888-434-4648 to schedule a time!