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What to do if elder fraud occurs


Elder fraud can be devastating both financially and emotionally. Recovery may take some time, but there are ways to help speed up the reporting and money recovery process. This article will help you navigate next steps after an older person has fallen victim to a scam or fraud.

Don’t Panic!

Elder fraud can be devastating both financially and emotionally. However, although it is a terrible thing to lose money to fraud, it’s important not to panic. The damage can be contained and, in some cases, even reversed. 

Reassure the victim that this is an unfortunate but all-too-common occurrence, and that there are procedures in place to help mitigate losses from fraud. Banks, credit card companies, and even the federal government can offer help to recover some lost money. 

Gather information

If you have emails, texts, or paper documentation of the fraud, put all of this together in one place. Record what the person can remember of names, titles, and other information about the scammer, including any details about where they said they live or work. Even the envelopes that correspondences arrived in might help prosecute someone. 

Track how much money was taken, from which account or accounts it was taken, and when the money was taken. Include bank and credit card statements, receipts for purchases and transfers, and anything else that documents money or sensitive information given away without permission or because of undue influence. 

Protect accounts

If someone has already fallen victim to one or more scams or frauds, it’s important to stop the damage and safeguard resources while you sort out the losses. Here are some steps to take to protect remaining assets.

  • Freeze accounts. Your first call should be to bank and credit card holders to make sure that no more money can be taken from the victim. Ask for new credit and debit cards with new numbers to be issued, and put a temporary freeze on all transactions from accounts that aren’t completely necessary. If the victim gave the scammer their full bank account and routing information, it may need to be closed and a new one opened in its place. 
  • Send an alert. File a fraud alert with all three credit reporting agencies. This typically lasts up to a year, and will notify potential credit card agencies and lending institutions that there has been a fraud, and that they should verify the victim’s identity before proceeding. You can also request a security freeze, which will completely restrict access to credit reports until a time you determine is appropriate. This can help prevent thieves from opening new credit cards or applying for new debt in the victim’s name. 
  • Reset log-ins and passwords. Fraudsters and scammers with access to a victim’s password for one account can often use it for another account, since many people use the same password for multiple accounts. Carefully comb through each online account with a password that might have been compromised and change it to a new, more secure password. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of changing all passwords regularly and storing password information securely. 
  • Tighten up protection. Anti-virus software, stronger passwords, and firewalls all help protect from malware and spyware. Make sure the person’s computer and phone are set to update software regularly. 

Report the crime

In addition to reporting the scam or fraud to banks and credit reporting agencies, victims are encouraged to contact the Department of Justice or the IRS. In cases of financial abuse by a caregiver or someone the victim knows, contact Adult Protective Services to initiate an abuse claim and get help for the victim. Filing a police report will also help document the fraud and support court cases and criminal charges against the perpetrators. The Department of Justice also offers a National Elder Fraud hotline (833–372–8311) that can walk victims and their caregivers through the steps. 

Make sure it doesn’t happen again

One horrifying scam is sometimes perpetrated on recent victims of identity theft or fraud: scammers will pose as federal agents or representatives of the victim’s bank and offer to help retrieve lost money for a fee or supposed refundable deposit. Be aware of this and caution against these scams, since they’re likely only to throw good money after bad. By regularly reviewing new and persistent types of elder fraud out there, you can help people stay alert to potential danger. 

Related information

Overview of elder fraud

Preventing elder fraud

Having the elder fraud talk

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