Every year approximately five million senior Americans are abused, neglected or exploited. Even worse, for every reported case another five go unreported. The reporting is even more troubling, when it comes to financial abuse cases. Just one in 14 of them are reported.
Against this backdrop, approximately $2.6 billion is stolen every year through elder financial abuse and exploitation. These statistics are likely to only get worse with 72 million baby boomers rapidly reaching their elder years. Even with all we know about elder abuse statistics, the public remains underinformed, when it comes to ways to avoid and prevent it.
Avoiding “IRS Scams”
According to federal government statistics, the most common scam perpetrated against the elderly in recent years is IRS Impersonation. Con artists pretend to be with the IRS when they call. They have targeted more than 2.1 million senior Americans and swindled some 12,300 of them out of a staggering total of $64.9 million.
These criminals typically prey on the elderly by accusing them of owing back taxes and penalties. If the targeted senior does not make an immediate payment, then the con artist threatens home foreclosure, arrest and deportation. To help seniors avoid this IRA scam, remember that the IRS never:
- Calls to demand immediate payment;
- Calls about taxes owed, without first mailing a bill to the taxpayer;
- Demands that a taxpayer pay taxes, without giving them the opportunity to question the amount owed;
- Asks for credit or debit card information over the phone;
- Threatens to have a taxpayer arrested; and
- Requires a taxpayer to use a specific payment method for taxes (like a prepaid debit card).
Therefore, what action should you take while on the phone with a suspicious IRS caller? Get the caller’s information and offer to call them back, after consulting with a trusted relative or an attorney. That should end the conversation and the scam.
Preventing Elder Abuse
In addition to these helpful reminders from the IRS, here are some additional elder abuse prevention pointers.
Did you know that many of those who abuse or neglect the elderly are family caregivers? Well-meaning and dedicated family members often fall prey to the stress of the physically and emotionally demanding responsibilities of caregiving. If you are a caregiver, do not go it alone. Find trusted family members or friends to help or at least give you a needed break. Contact an Aging Life Care Professional to help you find and engage various available local services, like adult day care.
If your senior family member is in a nursing facility, stay involved by monitoring their day to day care. Drop by unannounced at various times on different days of the week, to include meal time and bedtime. Look for signs of elder abuse or neglect. The most common signs are changes in appearance or mood. Contact an elder law attorney without delay, if you suspect foul play of any kind.
Remind your elderly loved one to be cautious, when making any major financial or legal decisions. What if he or she may have made a “mistake”? You should be sensitive and reassuring. An elder law attorney may help right a wrong. However, time is almost always of the essence.
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