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How to Keep Your Loved Ones Safe From Financial Scams

Wired: “…So what can we do to help our elderly and vulnerable, who are the targets of scams and morally dubious business practices? I spoke with Genevieve Waterman from the National Council on Aging (NCOA), an expert on financial education among older adults. She was quick to point out that pushy salespeople often use the same tactics as scammers, creating a false sense of urgency to secure a signature or sale. To start helping your loved ones, you may need to negotiate some tricky conversational waters. Some folks struggle to accept help, prefer to keep finances private, or feel patronized by advice. Begin by letting them know they can ask you if they want to, but be careful not to be judgmental if they open up. If you can get into the habit of discussing these kinds of things openly, it can make life easier down the road. It works best if it’s a two-way street, so share your worries and ask for advice, don’t just give it. After all, it’s not just older folks who get ripped off. For those without family to turn to, there are more than 11,000 senior centers across the United States that can provide all sorts of help, including education on digital skills. Local libraries are also great places to find digital literacy classes. The NCOA offers loads of useful advice on how to avoid text message scams, recognize bogus tech support, or avoid phishing scams. The Better Business Bureau has a scam tracker where you can report suspected fraud and review known scams. There are some simple rules that Waterman says can drastically reduce the risk of falling victim to a scam or being ripped off:

  • Never click links in text messages or emails. You can always contact companies independently to verify that a communication is authentic.
  • Never share personal information, especially your Social Security number. If you don’t have to, then don’t.
  • Urgency is a red flag. Whether it’s a scammer posing as your grandchild asking for money or a pushy salesperson, take a step back and take your time to mull things over before you act.

In some circumstances, it’s important to discuss estate planning. This NCOA guide explains the differences between a living trust and a will. The sad fact is that trying to make a plan after a relative is diagnosed with dementia or undergoing intensive treatment for a life-threatening illness can be very difficult. Knowing what to do after someone dies can be impossible. We have a guide on how to write a living will, and after-loss tech to help the bereaved is taking off…”

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