Protecting Seniors from Financial Scams

We’ve all received emails riddled with misspellings from scam artists notifying us that a vast amount of cash is just waiting for us to claim, or that something’s amiss with our bank account. All we need to do is enter our bank information and money will be wired immediately and we’ll live happily ever after. Many of these scams are targeted at older people.

A recent MetLife study found older Americans are financially abused by family members, strangers and businesses to the tune of $2.9 billion a year. Alarmingly, despite increased efforts to educate seniors about the dangers of sharing their financial information, the sum of swindled funds is 12% higher than in 2008. The real tragedy, of course, is that both numbers may grossly under-estimate the thefts as experts figure that more than 80% of cases are not reported because the victims are too embarrassed to report the thefts to their children or authorities.

Why are our seniors so vulnerable? A recent Investment News article mentions research from behavioral economist David Laibson that found that people tend to make poorer financial decisions as they age. Laibson’s take on this sad reality is that because seniors are often lonely, they may be more willing to talk to strangers.

To protect your older relatives, I suggest sharing two simple investment adages: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is a scam. And if you don’t understand it, you should not own it.

If you’re charged with reviewing the bank accounts of a loved one, any large withdrawal should prompt questions. Of course, seniors working with an independent financial advisor who is a fiduciary (i.e., a firm like Bernhardt Wealth Management) have the added assurance of a trusted professional reviewing their financial accounts and activities in their accounts.

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