1. Stay involved in their life
The most important thing is to stay connected with your older adult and keep up with what’s going on in their life.
If you’re not able to be there in person, speak regularly over telephone or video calls.
Loneliness and uncertainty about the current outbreak increases the chances that seniors could believe a scammer’s reassuring lies.
Prevent this by staying involved in their life. Not only does it show that you’re there for them, it helps protect them from the risks associated with isolation and loneliness – something we’re all feeling right now.
2. Be aware of current coronavirus scams
Scammers have created dozens of ways to steal money from people who are scared or worried because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
A good first step is to get familiar with popular coronavirus scams so you can share the information with your older adult.
Educate them about different types of scams that are going around.
Right now, we’re seeing scammers taking advantage of victims using telephone, email, social media, or websites and even in person.
These scammers might pose as government officials, sell fake cures, or offer fake information services to supposedly keep people informed.
Older adults may not be aware that people would do such terrible things or that they can be so sneaky and clever.
To familiarize yourself with current scams, here are some helpful news articles:
FTC & FDA: Warnings sent to sellers of scam Coronavirus treatments (lists 7 specific sellers of fraudulent products) – U.S. Federal Trade Commission
FTC: Coronavirus scams, Part 2 – U.S. Federal Trade Commission
3. Get up-to-date coronavirus fraud prevention tips online
The fraud section on Snopes.com has great information about different types of scams, including those taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak.
Snopes also created the Coronavirus Collection to fact-check all the misinformation and fake news that’s spreading like wildfire.
The Fraud.org website offers helpful fraud protection tips and posts regular updates and information.
Fraud.org hasn’t yet tailored their information for coronavirus scams, but many of the current scams are variations on “classic” scams.
4. Stay alert to signs of fraud
Another way to protect your older adult is to keep an eye out for signs of potential financial fraud while encouraging them to share information about their life with you.
They might tell you about a wonderful new supplement that protects against coronavirus, a special service from the United Nations that sends COVID-19 home test kits, a subscription news service that shares top-secret outbreak information the government won’t tell you about, or a special source for currently sold out face masks and hand sanitizer.
When you’re aware that they’ve been taken in by a scammer, you can explain why it’s dangerous to use those fraudulent products or services.
By doing this, you’ll be taking steps to prevent or stop lasting damage like credit card/bank account number theft, identity theft, or malware on their phone or computer.
5. Verify with a trusted individual
Let your older adult know they should always consult with you or another trusted person before purchasing any of these types of products or giving out any personal or financial information.
Remind them that your only goal is to help them avoid ruthless scam artists and that you aren’t trying to control their actions.
6. Teach seniors about online and social media fraud
Online fraud is currently on the rise, especially now that we’re all staying at home.
Educate your older adult on the dangers of connecting with people online and through social media as well as how common it is for internet fraudsters to pretend they’re someone else or represent a reputable organization.
7. Be supportive and sensitive after a scam
If your older adult gets scammed, they may feel ashamed and embarrassed about falling for the scheme. That could make them reluctant to talk about what happened.
Responding warmly and non-judgmentally helps seniors feel supported and be more willing to discuss the situation with professionals like law enforcement, lawyers, or financial advisers.