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Color of Money: Learn how to protect seniors from fraud

Michelle Singletary on

WASHINGTON -- With every data breach comes an increased need for fraud sentinels for seniors.

And by that I mean if you are a caregiver for a senior, you should become familiar with schemes targeting the elderly.

Clearly there are many seniors who are fully capable of avoiding conmen trying to get their money. But particularly for those who have health issues or may be vulnerable for a host of other reasons, it's important to have someone looking out for their financial well-being.

My grandmother and I had an agreement. Big Mama was incredibly competent with her finances right up to her death. But if she got mail or a phone call about anything financial, she would run it by me. (She never used a computer.)

"'Shell, what you think about this?" Big Mama would ask.

I was a constant presence in her life, checking to make sure nobody was taking advantage of her. Anyone who tried was greeted with my wrath.

Big Mama even took me to her credit union and bank to introduce me to the folks who worked there. She wanted them to be familiar with me and to know that I was her designated financial protector.

More than two-thirds of caretakers reported that a scammer had targeted their elderly relatives, according to a new survey of more than 1,700 people conducted by the Cooperative Credit Union Association (CCUA), a New England-based trade group.

The survey found that, most often, the attempted fraud was initiated with a telephone call. Nearly 22 percent of scam attempts were made via email or another online contact.

CCUA also found that caregivers are worried about their elder relative's ability to spot a fraud. And they're right to be concerned. More than a quarter of respondents said that the elders under their care had fallen victim to at least one financial scam.

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