by: Brent Scott
Scam Safety for the Caregiving Community
This year marked the 30th celebration of National Senior Citizens Day. Today, August 21, we celebrate the achievements of our aging citizens; with this, we can also share valuable information that loved ones and caregivers can use to ensure the safety of their information and personal data. Unfortunately for the elderly population in the U.S., seniors are often targeted by scammers. In fact, one study concluded roughly 5% of the senior population is less perceptive than others to an individual’s intentions. Therefore, when an unknown individual calls or emails a vulnerable individual, it’s possible they could be tricked into handing over personal information, security codes, or verbal authorization. As a caregiver, it’s important to stay vigilant of potential scams and help steer your residents towards safety and security.
What Scams Look Like to a Caregiver:
Your client receives urgent mail from creditors and insurance companies– Criminals frequently target the elderly and, after obtaining your publicly listed USPS mailing address, they can harass individuals with false notification, bills, or requests for contact. Scammers who attempt to target a senior through the mail often target the individuals identity by exploiting their personal information, financial records, and medical data.
Your client receives harassing phone calls– When dealing with fraudulent phone calls, scammers often pose as representatives from insurance companies, debt collection services, or government offices. They pose as an individual with authority and claim that money is owed or personal information must be disclosed. Criminals prefer to target the 5% of senior citizens who are vulnerable to accepting false identification, meaning caregivers should answer all phone calls. Although it may seem strange to a client, proper education and a respectful perspective can help you navigate the conversation. Remember, this is an attempt to help your client formally establish the credibility of the caller, and is a formality that gives both of you peace of mind.
Your client becomes unable to access online accounts– Password theft, account hacking, data breaches, and viruses are common ways criminals disable user-access and obtain vulnerable data and personal information. In extreme cases, the fraudulently obtained information could be sold on the darkweb, or used by the thief to empty a bank account, apply for a personal loan, or accept benefits. If you suspect this, notify your client’s family immediately.
Your client stopped receiving government benefits or insurance coverage–
Social Security fraud occurs when an unauthorized individual or criminal fraudulently intercepts or collects the Social Security benefits of an unsuspecting individual. If your client stops receiving insurance coverage or government assistance, notify the client’s family and advise them to contact the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration (SSA) immediately. Following the event, make sure you document any suspicious phone or mail activity, as it could help your client’s family identify the source.
A surprisingly common occurrence among the elderly is the use of stolen information to request and receive medical coverage, treatment, or drugs. When a criminal targets medical information, including Social Security and insurance documents, and presents the information as their own, your client may be denied medical coverage. An insurance provider or government official could flag and temporarily suspended the account if suspicious activity is detected. If this happens, the individual will be notified that their service has been suspended. However, if you suspect potential issues, notify the family and advise they contact the client’s insurance provider and primary care physician to check for errors.
Top Tips for Caregivers:
- Regularly collect the mail for your client, and notify your client’s family of any new or suspicious mail or notifications, including those from creditors or the Internal Revenue Service. Recommend that family members contact these creditors, lenders, banks, or government agencies to report suspicions, enable alerts, or freeze activity.
- Never let your client give out sensitive information over the phone. Answering all incoming phone calls on their behalf is the best way to screen for potential scams. Be sure to report any suspicious requests or notifications to the family. For the more obvious telemarketing or donation inquiries, ask the caller to remove the number from their registry. If the calls continue, advise the family to join the National Do Not Call Registry.
- Notify the family of any suspicious online account activity or inability to access online accounts, insurance records, government benefits, or medical accounts. This could be an early sign that your client has had their information compromised. Caregivers should notify family members if the individual becomes unable to access their accounts. Reporting suspicions early can make a big difference when it comes to information recovery time.
As a caregiver, you have a direct influence on the safety and security of your client. Therefore, the ability to identify and alert a family member to a potential issue, which adds value beyond your training. If you’d like to learn more about the types of identity theft and the appropriate response strategies, read this article.