Ten Tips to Protect Seniors from Financial Crimes

Thieves frequently target seniors for many financial crimes including burglary, robbery and personal theft. Don’t be a victim.

Sweet, trusting, kind. These are three words most people use to describe their aging parents or grandparents. But unfortunately, a growing number of people are adding the word “victim” to the list.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, each year, tens of thousands of senior citizens are victimized by crimes motivated by economic gain. Thieves frequently target seniors for the crimes of burglary, robbery and personal theft, sweepstakes and telemarketing fraud, home-improvement scams and identity theft.

Experts say most of the people who fall victim to these crimes do so because they are too trusting. The Dignity Memorial Smart and Safe Living program offers seniors these ten tips to protect themselves:

1) Elect to have your social security check deposited directly into your checking or savings account on the day it is issued. This not only allows faster access to the funds, but eliminates the need for traveling to the bank and becoming the possible target of a robber.

2) Take advantage of automated bill paying services so you won’t ever have to put a check with your personal information in the mail box. Bills can be paid with credit cards, debit cards or even with a check-by-phone these days.

3) If you need cash:

* Get it at a store where you’re shopping anyway by writing a check for more than the total amount of your bill.

* Get cash from a bank branch inside a grocery store where there will be a lot of people around.

* If you end up going to an actual bank, and don’t feel comfortable in the neighborhood it’s in, ask one of the employees to walk you back to your car after you make your transaction.

* If you elect to use an ATM, go to one in a shopping mall or in front of a grocery store where there are a lot of people around. When using the ATM, shield the front of the machine from prying eyes so your PIN number is protected.

4) If your credit cards and/or checks become lost, immediately call the issuing company to have the card(s) invalidated and the checks stopped.

5) On the Internet, never give away personal information to someone you meet in a chat room. They could use it to commit identity theft.

6) Beware of Spyware. These programs can be downloaded for free, yet once installed on your system can send messages to the originator of the software about every Web site you visit, the things you are interested in, and even what you’re doing on your own system. To avoid it, before downloading any program, even if it’s an attachment from a friend, search the Internet under “Spy Ware” to look for names of the most recent predators.

7) Don’t download files sent to you from unknown sources. They may contain a “virus,” which is a computer program put out by malicious programmers. Computer viruses can erase hard drives, lock up entire systems, steal information and more.

8) Beware of home repair scam artists. Before hiring a contractor to do work on your home, check them out with the Better Business Bureau and check their references.

9) Make sure the person you’re considering hiring is bonded. Though your home insurance may cover anything that goes wrong during construction, have the worker show you proof that he or she is bonded then contact the insurance company listed to verify.

10) Before inviting a salesperson into your home, have a family member or trusted friend available to join you in the meeting, and tell him or her ahead of time that you don’t want to make any firm commitments that day.

Courtesy of ARA Content

Photo: OTA Photos