Brain changes make ALL older adults vulnerable to fraud

Many of us with loved ones living with cognitive issues face a never ending struggle to “protect” them from harm. My siblings and I battled with our parents when we could see they were making poor decisions and were at risk of jeopardizing their life savings. My parents were angry with their over-reaching children and our opinions.

What I finally came to learn was that my parents were unable to perceive they were making poor decisions and just yearned for independence and control over their own lives.

Turns out, that our aging brains put all of us at risk to be more vulnerable as we age. You can read the full report: Neural and behavioral bases of age differences in perceptions of trust.  In summary:

“Older adults are disproportionately vulnerable to fraud, and federal agencies have speculated that excessive trust explains their greater vulnerability. Two studies, one behavioral and one using neuroimaging methodology, identified age differences in trust and their neural underpinnings. Older and younger adults rated faces high in trust cues similarly, but older adults perceived faces with cues to untrustworthiness to be significantly more trustworthy and approachable than younger adults. This age-related pattern was mirrored in neural activation to cues of trustworthiness. Whereas younger adults showed greater anterior insula activation to untrustworthy versus trustworthy faces, older adults showed muted activation of the anterior insula to untrustworthy faces. The insula has been shown to support interoceptive awareness that forms the basis of “gut feelings,” which represent expected risk and predict risk-avoidant behavior. Thus, a diminished “gut” response to cues of untrustworthiness may partially underlie older adults’ vulnerability to fraud.”

Yikes.

Right now, I’m in the midst of two battles on behalf of my clients. One overpaid for work in their home and the other where a caregiver talked her into writing a check and also stole her credit card. I was just subpoenaed for the trial and hope that the outcome will ensure this horrible human can never be hired for senior-serving employment in the future.

The loss of this internal ability means we all need to step up to do what we can to protect our elders. I sure hope someone will be there to do the same for me. Driven.

Even Savvy Adults Get Fooled by Imposter Scams

A girlfriend shared how her mom, who she thought was of sound mind, was fooled into thinking that she (my girlfriend) had been kidnapped. They tried to get her mom to a check cashing place to wire money for her release.

Thankfully, her mom navigated it well but it was a quite a traumatic event. Her mom lives in a condo and kept the fraudster on the phone while she went down to the concierge who called the police. However, she was wondering if her mom was really of sound mind if she fell for this.

I confirmed to her that really smart people can be victims of this scam because the fraudsters are so good. In fact the FTC reported that the kidnapping scam is the top “Imposter Scam” for 2017 and cost Americans at least $328 million.

As a Daily Money Manager, I work with older adults in their homes and one of the first things I do is implement a call screening solution. In metro-DC, I can implement Nomorobo which is free service from Verizon. The Nomorobo website can help you find out if you can get their free service in your area.

You will immediately notice the quiet once you implement this feature in your own home.

If you can’t get a service like Nomorobo, you can purchase a call blocking device like Sentry 2 that lets you blacklist numbers. It does require that you tag calls to the “blacklist” to block, and you can also add numbers and only get calls from those on your “whitelist”. It can fill the need but does require assistance to be effective.

Two other simple options include:

  1. Sign up for “Anonymous Call Rejection” with your local carrier. This service rejects calls from anyone that has blocked their caller ID information. It is usually something you can enable using *77 but varies by provider.
  2. Never answer the phone if they don’t recognize the number.  Real people trying to reach you will leave a message.

Eventually, I think the FTC might start requiring phone companies to offer more protections for their clients. They have admitted the “Do No Call” list is a total failure. Technology improvements are great … it just stinks that crooks are always looking for ways to separate us from our money. For now, it’s our job to help protect ourselves and our loved ones.

For more on this topic, check out this story:

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Virtual Kidnapping Scam The Washington Post

Impostor Scams Net $328 Million

scamalertA girlfriend just shared how her mom, who is in good health and of sound mind, received a call that she (my girlfriend) had been kidnapped. They wanted her mom to immediately drive to a check cashing place and wire money for her release. Her mom tried to text and call on a second phone, by her daughter was in an appointment with her phone off.  Thankfully, her mom navigated it well but it was a quite a traumatic event. Her mom lives in a condo and kept the people on the phone while she went down to the concierge who called the police and helped. However, she was wondering if her mom was really of sound mind if she fell for this.

I confirmed to her that really smart people can be victims of this scam because the fraudsters are so good. In fact the FTC reported that the kidnapping scam is the top “Imposter Scam” for 2017 and cost Americans at least $328 million.

For those of us caring or concerned about loved ones that live alone, I hope you will consider how you can implement a call screening service or device to help eliminate these callers. I implemented this system in my own home and never answer an unidentified call at home or on my mobile phone.

As a Daily Money Manager, I work with older adults in their homes and one of the first things I do is implement a call screening solution. In metro-DC, I can implement Nomorobo which is free service from Verizon. The Nomorobo website can help you find out if you can get their free service in your area.

If you can’t get a service like Nomorobo, you can purchase a call blocking device like Sentry 2 that lets you blacklist numbers. It does require that you tag calls to the “blacklist” to block, and you can also add numbers and only get calls from those on your “whitelist”. It can fill the need but does require assistance to be effective.

Two other simple options include:

  1. Sign up for “Anonymous Call Rejection” with your local carrier. This service rejects calls from anyone that has blocked their caller ID information. It is usually something you can enable using *77 but varies by provider.
  2. Suggesting they never answer the phone if they don’t recognize the number.  A doctor, or friend will leave a message and they can easily call back

For many, the comfort of home and the costs can make aging in place the best choice. However, there are many things to consider to make sure our loved ones are safe. Advised. 

For more on this topic, check out this story:

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Virtual Kidnapping Scam The Washington Post

Why Auto-Debit is a Bad Idea.

autopayI understand how easy it is to “set-it and forget it” so you never miss a payment.  However, in reality, you have set up a system that no one is minding and there are many ways for scams and fraud to sneak into your life.

I have talked with adult children who have either helped mom and dad set this up to avoid missing or late payments, as well as heard from older adults that this is their plan B should they have a crisis.

It seems like a simple solution, but I want you to be forewarned that there are risks associated. Last year I started working with a new client to find that she was still paying for Juno.  Yeah, she was paying $9.95 a month for dial-up service, even through she had wifi in her home and had for years. We also found a monthly “shipping service” billing her $24.95 monthly she didn’t use, and several hundred dollars in ongoing charitable contributions she didn’t realize she was making.  If you want to set up an auto-debit, do it for an amount that will cover the minimum payment and plan to review the statements before you pay the balance.

In an audit of 20 new clients, I had only one that did’t have a variety of charges on their credit account they couldn’t explain. As we investigate those charges, they realize they were paying for things they don’t use, or worse, never recalled subscribing to ongoing payments.

What’s the harm? Over the course of a year, it’s typically over one thousand dollars. In a few cases this year, I had clients who it was costing several thousands dollars a year. Charities, face creams, supplements, a shipping service, iTunes/App subscriptions … it’s easy to get lost in the list of charges. The scammers are crafty.

I understand wanting to simplify and make things easier, but when it comes to money, you need to make sure someone is minding your finances, or you may find there are several sticky fingers in the till.

If you have a loved one that needs some help, Daily Money Managers are insured and guided by professional ethics to represent their clients best interests. I have yet to find a client where I didn’t save them more money than my time cost. Here is a link to a directory of professionals in the United States. Referred.  

 

 

Is someone taking advantage of a loved one?

familyfraudmemeI see reports about fraud in the family and am never sure who has the right stats. The National Council of Aging reports one set of metrics, and a recent report from AARP says that 75 percent of the abuse is committed by family, friend, or neighbor.

Regardless of the figures, I hope that everyone considers having two set’s of independent eyes on the money. In my family, I did the day-to-day finances, but my siblings had access too, and I reported on the cash flow and expenses. We thankfully, all got along.

For families with siblings that won’t work well together, it might help to look outside the family to set up a way to report on the money. That is one reason I get hired as a Daily Money Manager. I work with the parent, but report to the sibling/financial advisor/estate lawyer. It helps to have two independent individuals with oversight and to provide checks and balances. Hiring a professional can eliminate the conflict that comes with disagreements about money.

I’m troubled as a family caregiver to hear that family is taking advantage of a loved one financially. The story FRAUD in The Family (Feb. 2018) from AARP is a good lesson in the many ways estate plans might fail to serve your best interests.

If you are worried about a loved one, some suggestions include:

  1. Stay in Touch. You will be surprised by what they might share with you or overhear when you are calling. Skype and Facetime are very helpful since they also let you see the individual as well as get a look at their surroundings to know if the home is being maintained.
  2. Understand Cognitive Decline. In general, the processing in our brains slows and most notice changes starting in our 50s. If you are noticing cognitive issues or trouble with bills and managing the checkbook, you can suggest getting some help with the day-to-day finances. Beware of setting up auto-payments since once this is done, most people stop looking at their checking and credit card statements. That is very problematic due to the number of fraudsters and scammers. I have only had 1 client this year that wasn’t being charged for things they didn’t order or want.
  3. Who is in the House? From caregivers that aren’t properly vetted, to renters who are stealing — Understanding who is in the home is important. It helps to take a photo inventory, as well as make frequent and unannounced visits should you find someone is stealing from a loved one.

It stinks that we have to layer onto the loss by bringing in additional oversight and protection. However, it is one way you can ensure your loved one is well-served. Suggested. 

 

Why Auto-Debit is a Bad Habit

In my work as a Daily Money Manager, I meet with people who have set up auto-payments on their credit cards and have no idea about the source of several charges. In an audit of 20 new clients, I had only 1 that did’t have a variety of charges on their credit account they couldn’t explain. As we investigate those charges, they realize they were for things they don’t use, or worse, never recalled subscribing to.

This is the “set it and forget it” option.

What’s the harm? Over the course of a year, it’s typically over one thousand dollars. In a few cases this year, I had clients who it was costing several thousands dollars a year. Charities, face creams, supplements, a shipping service, iTunes/App subscriptions … it’s easy to get lost in the list of charges. The scammers are crafty.

The most frustrating are the charities. I find that many clients don’t realize they were giving to a charity every month. This usually happens to those that respond to phone solicitors. Somewhere in the conversation, you might have agreed to make the donation every month.

You hate to tell someone to cancel funding a good cause, however, many of the people I work with need to focus on funding their care for the rest of their lives, and that few hundred dollars a month can make a big difference over the coming years.

I get it! Life is busy. I have set up and use auto-debits, but in particular for credit cards, I set it at a modest amount so that if I miss the payment, I have at least met the minimum payment. This forces me to review my bills every month to make sure no nefarious charges are showing up. If I don’t recognize something, I call the phone number that is listed on the bill.

If you see something, do something!  In the end, you will be rewarded for your efforts. It’s up to you to keep a close eye on your credit and finances, if you don’t, someone else may!

Seven ways to avoid the health scams targeting seniors

fbiThe FBI did a presentation in November for AARP that had some valuable information that can help older adults. In working with seniors now, I often seen many of these scams played out and work to undo and recoup money that has been siphoned away through exploitation.

The majority of senior scams start when the individual offers up their medicare number or credit card information. Nothing was stolen, it was actually given away. For this reason, I suggest that loved ones and family consider how to offer support.

Most seniors will not share the fact that they were exploited due to embarrassment as well as fear that their control over their own life will be taken away … even by well-meaning family. I know, because my family experienced it. We saw a variety of different ploys that impacted our parents financially. I started by trying to work in tandem with mom who was “in charge” of paying the bills. It takes lot more time to do in tandem. Thankfully, my dad helped navigate the issues since he knew mom was struggling.

Eventually, when money just caused anxiety for mom, I started handling the finances and would just give her a quick, positive report to assuage her concerns. If you aren’t local and don’t have the time, consider hiring a Daily Money Manager. They can help your loved one stay independent, but benefit from their expertise to avoid frauds and scams. You can research local resources at the American Association of Daily Money Management here.

In terms of health fraud, the FBI recommends:

  1. Never sign blank insurance claim forms
  2. Ask your medical providers what they will charge and what you will be expected to pay
  3. Review your insurance benefits statement
  4. Don’t work with door-to-door or telephone salespeople who tell you that services or medical equipment are free (check out a related post on the subtle abuse you might not notice that discusses these “free” offers — they are never without a cost.)
  5. Only give your insurance information to medical service providers; if asked for your insurance number in exchange for money report it!
  6. Keep accurate records of your health care appointments
  7. Be weary of rolling labs found at health clubs, retirement homes, and in parking lots.  You are offered a free or low cost tests which may be totally unnecessary and possibly fake. You give them your Medicare or other insurance information which is what they want. Once they have your name, they may bill for services that were never performed. You may not know it, but you’ve participated in a fraud.

I am constantly surprised at the amount of energy and effort, as well as complicity, involved in these efforts to exploit money from older adults. The best defense is a good offense. I hope this gives you an idea on how to help a loved one that needs it. Convinced.

As we age, changes in our brain make us more susceptible to exploitation.

ImpactofFraudHallie Swift is a poet with a keen eye for art, and she recently blogged about what happened to her mom. One of the comments in her story discussed how the changes in our brains as we age make us more susceptible to fraud and exploitation.

In working with older adults to manage their day-to-day finances, the onslaught of scams and ploys to get their money is never ending. For my oldest clients, we usually start by going through the mail together. The amount of non-profits that use language to convey a prior commitment to give saddens me as a former non-profit marketing professional. These are used even by the top-notch charities. They know that the “greatest generation” meets their commitments and language stating “Thanks for your pledge of $20.00” is very successful at generating donations.

If you are seeing a lot more donations, your loved one might be a victim of this tactic. I know that it worked on my parents. Their habit of giving once a year turned into checks every month.

However, the important thing to know is that the changes in our aging brains may make us all victims of some of the more serious and predatory scams that result in over 36 Billion dollars a year as reported by the National Council on Aging. I think it is valuable for all of us to know that it might be a natural consequence of getting older.

Beyond the concern to the finances is the emotional toll this takes on older adults. From additional health issues to trouble in a marriage, support around managing the checkbook might be a welcome relief to someone in your life.

For more on the full report, you can visit: Neural and behavioral bases of age differences in perceptions of trust.  In summary:

“Older adults are disproportionately vulnerable to fraud, and federal agencies have speculated that excessive trust explains their greater vulnerability.

Two studies, one behavioral and one using neuroimaging methodology, identified age differences in trust and their neural underpinnings. Older and younger adults rated faces high in trust cues similarly, but older adults perceived faces with cues to
untrustworthiness to be significantly more trustworthy and approachable than younger adults. This age-related pattern was mirrored in neural activation to cues of trustworthiness. Whereas younger adults showed greater anterior insula activation to untrustworthy versus trustworthy faces, older adults showed muted activation of the anterior insula to untrustworthy faces. The insula has been shown to support interoceptive awareness that forms the basis of “gut feelings,” which represent expected risk and predict risk-avoidant behavior. Thus, a diminished “gut” response to cues
of untrustworthiness may partially underlie older adults’ vulnerability to fraud.”

Aging ain’t for sissies. I hope this helps you consider how you might help a loved one as well as consider how to protect yourself in the years to come. Considered. 

Take Control of Your Credit Now.

CreditfraudfreezeGiven the number of breeches, especially for a loved one that doesn’t need to open a line of credit, it’s time to either put a FRAUD ALERT or a SECURITY (Credit) FREEZE in place.

Fraud Alert tells creditors they need to take reasonable extra-steps to confirm that it is you asking for credit. It lasts for 90 days and includes a free credit report.

Security Freeze locks your credit and requires action (and for now $10 to lift the freeze or re-freeze it) on your part to access credit. It took me about 30 minutes to do it online for all three. Be forewarned, you will have to be able to bring up past credit history and addresses — which is why I am an advocate of having one place for writing it all down. A great tool (it’s my book) can be found on Amazon.

I choose to use a Security Freeze for myself since I don’t foresee many situations in which I will be applying for credit in the coming years. Here are some links to each of three big bureaus:

Equifax Link to Freeze your credit: https://www.freeze.equifax.com

Experian Security Freeze: https://www.freeze.equifax.com ($10.00 fee)

Transunion Security Freeze: https://www.transunion.com/ ($10.00 fee)

Watch out for the upsell. Many of the sites will try to get you to buy their monitoring services. I don’t recommend those because I have found they just make you more concerned and the truth is that you have the ability to put the protections in place for free or a minimal cost.

To view the story on the report from Consumer Reports, click here.

Please let me know what you chose and what you found if you initiated one of these services. Protected. 

It’s time to lock our credit.

CreditfraudfreezeIf our lives as caregivers weren’t busy enough, there is one additional step to consider if you are caring for a loved one. Given the number of breeches, especially for a loved one that doesn’t need to open a line of credit, it’s time to either put a FRAUD ALERT or a SECURITY (Credit) FREEZE in place.

Fraud Alert tells creditors they need to take reasonable extra-steps to confirm that it is you asking for credit. It lasts for 90 days and includes a free credit report.

Security Freeze locks your credit and requires action (and for now $10 to lift the freeze or re-freeze it) on your part to access credit. It took me about 30 minutes to do it online for all three. Be forewarned, you will have to be able to bring up past credit history and addresses — which is why I am an advocate of having one place for writing it all down. A great tool (it’s my book) can be found on Amazon.

I choose to use a Security Freeze for myself since I don’t foresee many situations in which I will be applying for credit in the coming years. Here are some links to each of three big bureaus:

Equifax Link to Freeze your credit: https://www.freeze.equifax.com

Experian Security Freeze: https://www.freeze.equifax.com ($10.00 fee)

Transunion Security Freeze: https://www.transunion.com/ ($10.00 fee)

Watch out for the upsell. Many of the sites will try to get you to buy their monitoring services. I don’t recommend those because I have found they just make you more concerned and the truth is that you have the ability to put the protections in place for free or a minimal cost.

To view the story on the report from Consumer Reports, click here.

Please let me know what you chose and what you found if you initiated one of these services for you or a loved one. Protected. 

My deceased mom’s accounts were listed on my credit report.

creditreportexpIn the wake of the Equifax breach … which joins a long line of security breaks … I suggest you take a look at your own credit report now.

I often talk about how to help mom and dad and manage through being the adult family caregiver, and often one of the best things you can do is to lead by example.

You can get a free copy from the three major bureaus once a year, and it’s worth doing. When I recently ran my own reports, I found that my mom was listed along with some of her credit history. My mom passed away almost two years ago.

To get your report, visit: AnnualCreditReport.com 

You should not have to pay ANYTHING, so if you are being prompted to pay, you are on the wrong site. If you are just doing a check up, I would request all three. When I did this for myself recently, on the first one from Equifax, everything appeared to be in order. When I got to Experian, it provided more details and showed some accounts from my mom, who is now deceased. It also had several misspellings and listed former work addresses as former residences. It took around 45 minutes to get through the customer service system to the person that could help me. I found the same errors on the TransUnion report. They were very helpful in getting the issues corrected.

The good news is that corrections get shared with the other credit bureaus, and Experian is going to send me a note when the updates have been made and shared with the other bureaus.

In the wake of the breach, you might also consider putting a lock on your credit and recommending that to mom or dad as well. It won’t prevent the exploitation that is rampant and costs seniors $17 Billion a year, but at least it’s a start to having a positive discussion with your loved one. Hoped.