Face it: there are a lot of fraudsters out there. Scams are a fact of life. Criminals prey upon those they consider to be easy marks, including but certainly not limited to older adults. Because older adults are less likely to be savvy with computers or current technologies, criminals use elaborate techniques to spoof emails and websites in an attempt to attempt to gain a person’s financial information or confidence.
There are many scams directed at older adults: Medicare and health insurance fraud, lotteries and sweepstakes, email phishing, telemarketing, home repair, and contractor fraud. The list goes on and on. Vigilance and skepticism are the best tools for not falling victim to scams. Just like in the wild, predators go for the easy catch: the victim who is alone, away from the protection of the herd. If you live alone and don’t have regular interactions with people you trust who are able to spot scams and warn you of danger, you can jeopardize all you have worked hard for and everything you have tried to protect.
Here are some simple tips you can take to help protect your assets and yourself from predators:
- Be skeptical and ask lots of questions – Don’t buy or sign-up for things you don’t fully understand. Be an informed consumer. Swindlers use complexity as a tool to both impress and confuse victims. If you get a “gut feeling” that something isn’t right, or if the salesperson cannot answer your questions to your satisfaction so that you completely understand what you are buying or getting involved in, walk away from the deal.
- Know whom to trust – Surround yourself with people you can trust… people who will tell you the truth. People who will be lovingly honest and point out when you are going to make a mistake. Bounce ideas off them. Ask them to review things for you. Their eyes may spot things you might not have, and their early warning systems may be more finely tuned.
- Sign up for the Do Not Call List and opt-out of junk mail – You can avoid a lot of sales calls by signing up for the National Do Not Call registry https://www.donotcall.gov/ While it won’t stop EVERY telemarketer from calling, it will significantly reduce the personal high-pressure sales calls to your home and/or mobile phone. Additionally, you can use the mail preference service, TrustedID, to opt-out of pre-approved credit and insurance offers, junk catalogs, coupons, circulars, etc. at https://www.catalogchoice.org.
- Avoid lotteries, sweepstakes, and freebies – One of the oldest tricks in the book is to offer “something for nothing”. If you avoid these types of offers, you will avoid these types of scams. Chances are: if it is too good to be true, it probably is.
- Get a proper estate plan – When your assets are held in a trust and the trust is managed by a professional fiduciary it becomes much more difficult for a scammer to take advantage of you. When a trust requires more than one trustee to bind the trust financially, it offers a great double-check to ensure that one person’s judgment alone cannot jeopardize an estate. A professional fiduciary or a co-trustee may be appropriate in circumstances where you find it difficult to say no to financial solicitations from organizations or individuals such as friends, family members, telemarketers, mail solicitors, and email solicitors.
At the Halpern Law Office, we strive to make sure our clients are properly protected. Before you make any major purchase, donation, investment, or gift, please give us a call if you want some advice or someone to double-check the details.