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Financial Safety Strategies for Seniors

Financial scams can impact anyone at any time, but it is important to recognize that older adults tend to be a prime target for scammers using constantly improving methods of stealing your money without you realizing it. The reason seniors are often susceptible to financial scams is because people over 50 hold 83% of US household wealth, have a higher net worth, and may be averse to or lack skill in technology.

Knowing the warning signs for the most common scams can help seniors avoid getting tricked. Here are a few safety strategies to keep in mind when on the lookout for potential scams.

Understand the Wide Range of Scams

There are countless types of scams being attempted every day, but some are more prominent than others and more specifically target seniors.

  • Fake check scams — In this scenario, fraudsters will send you a check for an amount higher than what they owe, claim it was an accident, and ask for the excess funds to be returned to them. Shortly after, the bank will find that the original check was fake, and you will lose that “excess” money you sent back.
  • Medicare scams — Scammers will attempt to access your Medicare Number by telling you they need it for activation purposes or that they need to send you a new card because yours doesn’t work. According to Medicare.gov, Medicare will never contact you for your Medical Number or personal information without permission from you in advance.
  • Tech-support scams — As many older adults are less familiar with the latest technology, scammers take advantage of this in the form of false tech-support phone calls or fake tech companies. They will say that your computer or other device has a virus or malfunction and request money to fix the “problem”. If you truly have a virus, no one will call you and real pop-up warnings will not list a phone number for you to call.
  • Investment scams — In your later years, investments can be a good way to keep growing your retirement savings. However, if an investment salesperson is pushy or says you must make a decision quickly, it is likely a scam. You should also be aware of guarantees that an investment will perform well, because there is know way to predict or promise that an investment will perform a certain way.

How to Protect Yourself from Scams

All that being said, how do you keep yourself from falling victim to one of these scams? There are many ways to take safety precautions, including shredding any physical documentation that has personal or financial information on it, including receipts, bank statements, medical documents, and any documentation that lists your social security number (such as tax documents). Do not simply throw these things away.

You can also help protect yourself by choosing a trustworthy person/advisor to protect your assets, handle estate-planning matters, etc. Never rush into a financial decision — always get details in writing and get a second opinion. Another important aspect of protecting your financial information is checking your credit report regularly to ensure there are no errors or suspicious actions in your report.

Here are a few things to avoid and/or be suspicious of:

  • Never click any links in an email that comes from a source you don’t trust, or the subject of the email is unprompted/unusual. Be careful with fake email addresses — check them closely as scammers are skilled at faking seemingly “real” email addresses.
  • Never provide personal or financial information over the phone if you have not initiated the interaction. The IRS, banks, government, etc. will never reach out to you to request information about your accounts.
  • Look out for urgency claims — if someone is claiming you owe money or need to take action on something as soon as possible or you will be fined, arrested, etc., it is a scam.
  • Do not send a fee or “taxes” to collect sweepstakes or any types of “winnings” you are told you’ve won.

At the end of the day, always trust your instincts. Always be wary of anything that looks, sounds, or feels suspicious and never provide information to anyone that demands it, for any reason. If you are ever unsure, speak to a financial professional you trust such as your banker or advisor.

At Republic Bank, we’re here to help and keep you and your personal information safe. To get in touch with us, call 800-526-9127 and visit our library of resources for other helpful financial tips.

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