“Crimes against seniors are on the rise, but there are things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming victims.”
Unfortunately, some criminals target older Americans. Crimes against seniors are on the rise, but there are things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming victims. The National Crime Prevention Council is trying to prevent violent crimes, scams, and other financial abuse against older Americans through these strategies:
- Conducting research;
- Increasing public awareness;
- Giving seniors prevention tools and resources; and
- Working with law enforcement agencies, federal organizations, and nonprofit seniors’ groups.
Fraudulent telemarketers focus about 50 to 80 percent of their scams on older Americans. Telephone con artists steal around $40 billion a year in our country. Never give out your personal information over the phone. Never give your address, birthdate, Social Security number, checking account or credit card numbers over the phone. Pay no one based only on a phone call. Legitimate businesses send invoices you can review.
If someone calls to tell you that a loved one is in trouble and needs you to send money right away, write down the details and contact information. However, do not make payment arrangements over the phone. After you hang up, contact a close family member and have them verify the information. Nine times out of ten, this phone call is a scam from someone in another country.
Every day, Americans lose their life savings to people who steal their identities, clear out their bank accounts and run up debts in the unsuspecting person’s name. There are steps you can take to reduce your odds of becoming a victim of identity theft.
- Just as with the telephone, do not give your personal information over the Internet or through the mail.
- Only use your credit card number online on secured, encrypted sites you trust.
- Keep your passport, Social Security card, and birth certificate locked away at home, unless you must carry them for a specific purpose. Get a federal-compliant REAL ID driver’s license.
- Crooks go through your trash. Shred anything that a fraudster could use to impersonate you, such as a pre-approved credit card offer or a bank statement.
- Shred your expired credit cards.
When people look out for each other, they can stop violent crime before it happens. Join your Neighborhood Watch and get involved. Report suspicious activity to law enforcement. Social isolation does not make you safe – it makes you more likely to become a victim. Have your Social Security and other regular checks direct deposited into your bank account to keep people from stealing them from your mailbox or forcibly taking them from you when you go to deposit them at the bank.
When you go out, try to go with a friend or relative rather than going alone. Keep your cash and credit cards safely tucked away in a wallet you carry inside your coat or front pants pocket or in a purse you carry close to your body. Only carry the credit cards and cash you need that day.
Trust your instincts. If someone makes you feel nervous or uncomfortable, get away to a safe place. When using public transportation, sit close to the driver or exit.
Keep your home safe and sound. Keep your doors and windows locked with sturdy hardware. Replace all broken or flimsy locks. Hide no key outside your house. Give a spare set of keys to a trusted friend, neighbor, or relative. Do not let strangers into your home, even delivery people or service workers, unless they provide photo identification. If you have any doubts, call their company to verify that the person may enter your house for a legitimate reason.
You can talk with an elder law attorney in your area to develop strategies to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from fraudsters and other criminals. Your state’s laws might differ from the general law in this article.
National Crime Prevention Council. “Crimes Against Seniors.” (accessed August 2, 2018) http://archive.ncpc.org/topics/crime-against-seniors.html
National Crime Prevention Council. “Safer Seniors.” (accessed August 2, 2018) http://archive.ncpc.org/resources/files/pdf/fraud/saferseniors-updated.pdf