An older member of your family, a friend or a neighbor may be being scammed out of their money. Elder financial abuse is on the rise in Texoma. Here’s what you need to know...
The Executive Director of the Elder Financial Protection Network, Ruth Robeson, says the economy is turning seniors into targets. They are preyed upon because of their wealth from things like pensions, social security and Medicare. She says, as people age they're more vulnerable. Their capacity to make good decisions can be compromised and they need more assistance from caregivers.
Susan Pacanowski, Supervisor at Wichita Falls Adult Protective Services, says seniors must be vigilant.
“Our senior citizens need to be on guard. They need to careful who they trust. Who they put on their checking account. If they do need to have someone on their checking account to be sure they look over their statements each month. If that person who is on their account will not let them see their statements that's a huge red flag.
Pacanowski says she's noticed an increase in elder financial abuse cases here in Texoma since the casinos were built.
“It has been on the rise since we have had casinos near us. I have personally investigated several cases where that is exactly what happened because you can tell by the bank records we pulled. All of the unauthorized ATM withdrawals were made at the Red River Casino or Kiowa Casino over in Oklahoma."
Many cases of fraud go unreported. Firstly, because of the shame and embarrassment the victims feel about being duped. It’s also because it's usually a caregiver or family member doing the fraud and the victims fear retaliation. Many times an elder doesn't want to turn a family member in.
Monica Horton, President of the Better Business Bureau of North Central Texas, says there are also a lot of imposter phone scams going on targeting seniors.
“People call and they pretend to be the IRS. They say there's going to be a lawsuit filed. They’re trying to scare you into giving them money.”
A few of the ways experts at the Better Business Bureau advise seniors to stay safe is to plan ahead to protect your assets, limit your use of cash - checks and cards leave a paper trail, never sign any document before consulting your attorney and trust your instincts - feel free to say NO.
The Better Business Bureau says never give out personal or banking information over the phone. If anyone calls and asks for that information, immediately hang up. If you feel it may be an urgent call and you just want to check, use a number that you have for your bank or Medicare and call them back directly.