A large percentage of the millions of people who fall prey to financial frauds and other scams each year are, unfortunately, seniors.
When it comes to protecting yourself there are a few simple tips that you can use. It might even be useful for you to share these tips with your family members so that they know how to identify fraudulent activities when they arise.
1. You could be targeted by someone you know
Surprisingly, a lot of financial abuse towards those aged over 60 is carried out by members of the older person’s own family.
Be aware if you suddenly find you have lost or misplaced your cheque book, bank cards, purse or wallet. If you’ve noticed your jewellery and personal belongings going missing it’s worth taking a closer look at what’s being going on.
2. Be wary of unfamiliar people or companies
If you’re approached on the street and asked to make a snap decision about your finances, don’t do it unless you are familiar with the company or the charity and are familiar with their written material. Don’t stress too much about those who come door knocking asking you to help with their fundraising activities — you can get their name, company name, phone number, address and business licence number if they are legitimate. One thing to remember is avoid signing up to something or donating to something if you are required to write down your credit card information.
3. Don’t withdraw from the community
A great many of older Australians who become the victim of financial fraud do so because they start to withdraw from the community. If you have a diminished eyesight, hearing or the ability to walk you can be exposed to purse snatchers or even be mugged. By remaining involved in your community through activities and social interaction you will be more alert to the goings on around you when you venture out alone.
4. Avoid giving out your personal info over the phone
You’d all be aware of the many scams that crop up over the phone. Some schemes involve billing issues for supposed services you never received, false debt collection attempts and refunds for tax etc. If you believe the call is fraudulent you should take your complaint to the authorities. Never, give out your personal information over the phone if the phone call has come from an unsolicited source or an unfamiliar company.
5. Make use of the Do Not Call register
If you’re worried about being a target for fraudulent activity, put yourself on the Do Not Call register. Check your email often and if you feel you have started receiving way too many promotional emails, remove yourself from the list. The same goes for your ‘snail mail’ — avoid letting it sit in your mailbox for too long and be sure to drop your sensitive mail items at a post office or recognised post box.
6. Shred receipts
If you can get your hands on a paper shredder, use it to securely dispose of your bank statements (if you still receive them in hard copy), any investment information and your receipts. Someone who deals in the business of fraud takes great delight in sourcing your personal banking or financial information, so shredding will help prevent identity theft.
7. Use direct deposit
Using direct deposit instead of cheques will reduce the opportunities for scammers to steal your money from the post. Direct deposits go straight into your bank account.
8. Be alert, be vigilant
Take the time to do your homework when it comes to any financial decisions. If you don’t have a partner or spouse and you are unsure about decision making on your own, have a friend accompany you to an appointment where tough decisions might be necessary. Don’t allow yourself to feel pressured to make a decision. Give yourself the opportunity to make informed, well-though-out decisions.