Older Americans lose $2.9 billion a year to financial abuse and exploitation, according to MetLife’s 2011 Study on Elder Financial Abuse. Elder financial abuse has become the “crime of the 21st century” as the growing elder population is targeted by scammers, con artists, and sometimes, regrettably, their own relatives and caregivers. Such abuse can be financially and emotionally devastating especially when an older person is victimized by someone they know and trust. Often cases of financial abuse go unreported because of the fear, shame, or embarrassment that victims feel after they realize what has happened to them.
A primary goal of the Elder Abuse Prevention Project is to focus on preventing abuse before it happens. In the case of financial exploitation this means informing people about how to protect themselves before they become victims. In most cases of financial exploitation, it is very difficult to get money or property back after it has been taken from you.
Scams come in lots of forms and scammers are adept at molding their scams to fit any occasion. We plan to do a monthly blog post on the various scams that are targeted at older adults .
This month, let’s look at the increasingly popular “Grandparent Scam.” This one starts with a desperate phone call, e-mail or text from someone claiming to be your grandchild in trouble. They’re out of town on spring break and have been in an accident or are even hospitalized or in jail. They need cash desperately to pay medical bills or to make bail. They ask you to wire money to them immediately and beg you not to tell their parents.
The “Grandparent Scam” may sound obvious, but the scammers will often have done their homework—they’ll know your name and have the correct name for your grandchild. If they contact you by phone, the overseas line may have lots of static, so it can be tough to tell whether it’s really your grandchild’s voice or not.
So what should you do? Don’t immediately send money—it’s almost impossible to recover money once it’s been wired overseas. Do call your grandchild’s parents first to find out where your grandchild currently is and what their condition is! Hopefully you’ll learn that they’re fine and at home or school—and also save yourself some hard-earned money.