One of the main people behind PROTECT (“Protect Older Americans From Financial Exploitation”) week is Peter Franchot, the state Comptroller. He declared the cause is personal to him. “My mom, who passed away last year, at age 94, she had senile dementia. We looked at her financial books. Thousands and thousands of dollars had been written out to groups. Some perhaps were legitimate, most of whom seemed to me to be fraudulent.”
As he looked into her finances, he found that many of the payments she had made were to requests that were made to look like bills, looking to fool people into paying without further thought. Specifics being addressed during this week include tax fraud prevention, education for the general public – including ways to help aging family members, and financial abuse of the elderly. Both Franchot and Maryland’s Governor Frosh reminded people that they need to safeguard personal information for themselves and seniors they know.
Frosh took the time to remind people about email and phone call scams saying, “Let me tell you, you did not win the lottery in Ireland. That nice man from Nigeria is not going to put a $1 million in a bank account. Your grandson does not need you to send him money in Mexico to get him out of jail. The IRS is not going to arrest you for a tax bill you owe. These are very common scams.”
Do not give your personal information over the phone, do not give out your social security number or tax identification number – these are used often to file fake tax returns. Recently $180 million was requested from such fraudulent measures.
If you’ve been watching the news, or even keeping up through social media, you know that hacking is on the rise. Since 2005 more than a billion breaches have been made on personal information … that’s the equivalent of three (or more) times each for every person in the United States. In the average situation of financial elder abuse, as much as $120,000 is lost. That is a devastating amount to most families.
Other tips to follow include using a shredder, create strong passwords that are not the same for all of your accounts and don’t use known personal information such as birthdays or a child’s name. Sign up with a free credit monitoring and reporting company to check what is happening at least every six months. If you own a business, make sure your accounts are as secure as possible. You don’t want to have to face the public and your customers and clients to tell them their identities are at risk because you didn’t take enough care with their information.