Intense marketing too often crosses the line into fraud. Seniors can be ripped off via fraudulent telephone solicitations, with offers of mortgage “help” to avoid foreclosure and even at free-lunch investing seminars. According to a MetLife Mature Market Institute survey of reported swindles, 51% of the scammers were strangers, but 34% were family, friends or neighbors. Here’s what you can do:
Tell your parents you want to protect them by helping them go through their mail and monitor their accounts for unusual activity. Help them get copies of their credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com to make sure they aren’t victims of identity theft.
Put your parents on do-not-call lists. Most telemarketers will stop calling once a number has been on the National Do Not Call Registry for 31 days. You can register home and cell-phone numbers free at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 888-382-1222.
Offer to help your folks develop a spending plan (don’t call it a budget). This will give you a chance to see how much money is coming in and how they’re spending it.
Warn them about free-lunch seminars at which they could fall prey to a high-pressure sales presentation. If they’ve already been targeted, contact the salesman and ask him to stop calling.
If you suspect investment fraud, contact the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy at 800-732-0330, your state’s securities regulators (you’ll find links to regulators at www.nasaa.org) or your state’s Adult Protective Services, the agency that investigates reports of elderly financial abuse. To find your state Adult Protective Services office, visit the Web site of the U.S. Administration on Aging’s National Center on Elder Abuse or call the elder-care locator at 800-677-1116.
This article first appeared in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. For more help with your personal finances and investments, please subscribe to the magazine. It might be the best investment you ever make.