Financial Self-Defense for Seniors


May is Older Americans Month, a time to reflect on the contributions our parents and grandparents have made over the course of their lives. They provided services or goods to community members when they worked, served the community through local organizations and charities and are a living link to decades of history.

Unfortunately, there are those out there that try and take advantage of their age and kindness. Con artists and scammers target seniors across the United States every day in attempts to steal from them. The first step in combating these attacks on our older population is identifying the problem and how these crimes are committed.

Why are seniors targeted?

There are a few reasons why criminals target seniors. First, they are more likely to have a “nest egg” or savings for retirement. Generally speaking, they were raised to be polite and trusting, a trait con artists prey on. Seniors are also less likely to report fraud because they don’t know who to report it to. When they do, they often make poor witnesses because of memory or recall issues.

With that in mind, here are a few key phrases and things to watch out for.

“I’m certified.”

Your move: There are over 170 designations for financial professionals, but three letters mean more than most: CFP. This ensures they are actually certified and have completed all exams, experience requirements, and, most importantly, adhere to the CFP Board’s code of ethics and professional standards.

“The details are complicated, don’t worry about them.”

Your move: If you don’t understand what you are being sold, don’t buy it. Don’t feel embarrassed if you don’t understand the product or service. There are no dumb questions, so don’t be shy about asking. If necessary, get a second opinion from a financial professional you trust and who will advise in your best interest.

“Lunch & Learn” Programs

Your move: Keep the phrase “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” in mind. A sales pitch will follow the meal, so be ready. Don’t give out any personal information, and don’t put too much stock in what is being said. The presenter knows his product and the wealth demographics associated with your zip code, not your unique financial situation.

Other Common Fraud and Scams

There are numerous other types of scams and types of fraud perpetrated against seniors:

  • Telemarketing fraud
  • Nigerian letter or “419” fraud
  • Identity theft
  • Advance fee schemes
  • Health care fraud
  • Investment schemes

The only way to help seniors is to help them be aware of these type of scams. Family members should talk with older parents or grandparents to ensure they know the signs of a scam or fraud. Be sure to share this post to help.

Seniors have given a lot to our community and our country as a whole. Together, we can limit the effect of scam artists trying to take advantage of our parents and grandparents.

Putnam Bank, Member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender