As we age, it is important for us to take care of our bodies, minds, and souls so we can continue to lead healthy and happy lives. But there is one more thing we must remember to take care of: our finances. Keeping track of the funds you’ve set aside for this next chapter of your life, and making the most of those funds, provides you with a sense of security that is essential for healthy aging. At Avenida communities, we recognize that material security is just as important as physical fitness or cognitive efficacy as we age; that is why it is a key component of our Five to Thrive resident enrichment program.
You can exercise to stay fit, you can engage in creative activities to stay mentally sharp, and you can join community groups to stay engaged. But what can you do to maintain your financial independence and security? Spending wisely in your retirement years is important, as is engaging in smart financial planning, as these activities will help your money last longer. Unfortunately, wise spending and smart planning won’t necessarily protect you from a common financial pitfall that affects many older individuals: seniors scams.
According to a 2015 report, older Americans are losing over $36 billion each year to financial scams and abuse. Why target seniors? For one, criminals know that the current population of retiring seniors is one of the wealthiest generations. Plus, many older adults have cognitive or other impairments that make them ideal targets. Healthy and “cognitively intact” adults are still at risk, however, and so are those who may have modest savings as opposed to millions of dollars. Rich or not, mentally acute or not, seniors will continue to be the target of scammers, who use many different tactics to get money, as explained by the National Council on Aging (NCOA): health insurance fraud, Medicare scams, telemarketing scams, and home repair or contractor fraud.
What can you do to avoid these scams and keep your hard-earned money? NCOA offers 8 easy tips for protecting yourself:
- Be aware that you are at risk from strangers and from those closest to you. Unfortunately, many instances of financial scamming are perpetrated by close family members or friends. Understanding that you could be a target, even to family members, is the first step to protecting yourself.
- Don’t isolate yourself. Staying active within the community is important, as it helps you build a network of support. Your friends and neighbors can share their insights and experiences about senior scams, keeping you better educated about what to look out for and how to react if it happens to you.
- Always tell solicitors: “I never buy from (or give to) anyone who calls or visits me unannounced. Send me something in writing.” It is good practice to never donate money to a charity that requires your credit card information, and to only buy from a company you know or have researched.
- Shred all receipts with your credit card number. Buying a paper shredder and shredding your receipts is a simple step towards protecting yourself from identify theft. Make sure to also monitor your credit card statements for unrecognized transactions.
- Sign up for the “Do Not Call” list and take yourself off multiple mailing lists. A great way to avoid contact with scammers in the first place is to remove yourself from mailing lists and make sure you’re on the “Do Not Call” list. • Use direct deposit for benefit checks to prevent checks from being stolen from the mailbox. Direct deposit ensures that your money goes right into your account, rather than having a physical check that can be stolen.
- Never give your credit card, banking, Social Security, Medicare, or other personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call. Misuse of Medicare dollars is one of the largest scams involving seniors, so be wary of salespeople trying to sell you something they claim will be paid for by Medicare. Your account and personal information are valuable—keep them to yourself!
- Be skeptical of all unsolicited offers and thoroughly do your research. Don’t feel rushed into making any financial decisions. Take the time do research and talk to friends before making a purchase or donation, and do not allow yourself to be pressured into a decision.
These simple tips can help you avoid senior scams and ensure that you can continue to enjoy your hard-earned savings for years to come.