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"Are You Susceptible to Financial Exploitation?" by Julie Jason

Originally published: March 31, 2023 (distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication)

               We all have to be aware of potential scams these days, especially those directed at the elderly. They are not going away anytime soon. Plus, your knowledge may help a family member or friend (or yourself) avoid being defrauded.  

                To give you some perspective, more than 800,000 complaints of cyberattacks and cyber-enabled fraud were reported to the FBI in 2022, with a potential total loss of more than $10 billion, according to the recently released annual report by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) (tinyurl.com/ykh6xhwz). 

                Among age groups, those 60 and older reported more than 88,000 complaints (second highest behind ages 30-39) and had the highest total of losses, at $3.1 billion. Investment scams were atop the list for all ages when it came to the amount of money victims lost, at more than $3.3 billion.

                The pursuit of older people’s “nest eggs” is one of the fastest-growing consumer fraud issues, according to olderadultnestegg.com, which adds that “(O)ne out of 20 older adults in the U.S. is a victim of financial exploitation.” The website is led by Dr. Peter Lichtenberg, a researcher who focuses on financial decision-making, financial exploitation and financial capacity in older adults.

                It turns out that there may actually be a way to help assess your vulnerability to being scammed. Dr. Lichtenberg, who served as a panelist at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s March 27 Senior Investor Protection Conference, shared a tool that you can try yourself. (Go to tinyurl.com/muswy7c7 to take the Financial Vulnerability Survey.)

                Here are a few examples:

                How worried are you about having enough money to pay for things? 

                a. Not at all worried; b. Somewhat worried; c. Very worried. 

                Overall, how satisfied are you with your finances?

                a. Satisfied: b. Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied; c. Dissatisfied. 

                How often do you wish you had someone to talk to about financial decisions, transactions or plans? 

                a. Never or rarely; b. Sometimes; c. Often. 

                Have you noticed any money taken from your bank account without your permission? 

                a. No; b. Yes

                How often do your monthly expenses exceed your regular monthly income?

                a. Never or rarely; b. Sometimes; c. Often.

                Your answers will lead to a report and a score, ranging from Low Risk (“reduced risk of financial exploitation”); to Moderate Risk (“mildly increased risk of financial exploitation”); to High Risk (“a greatly increased risk of financial exploitation).” 

                Especially for those that score High Risk, it’s important to read the report for next steps, recommendations and resources. That information can help you make healthy changes. 

                There are additional resources, of course. Here are a few from the other panelists at the FINRA conference: The North American Securities Administrators Association’s Serve Our Seniors website (tinyurl.com/yjyvexzz), and AARP’s Fraud Watch Network (tinyurl.com/u7u35huk) and Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360. Also, FINRA has a hotline for senior investors who might have issues with brokerage accounts and investments. The number is 844-574-3577, and you can find more details about it at tinyurl.com/434uze58.

                Finally, if you have been a victim of a scam, don’t be embarrassed to report it to the Department of Justice’s National Elder Fraud Hotline (833-372-8311), which is “for people to report fraud against anyone age 60 or older.” Or, report to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. 

                By being more knowledgeable about the circumstances that can make one more vulnerable to being scammed, you can become more alert to possible danger.   

                By reporting a scam, you can possibly prevent someone else being a future fraud victim.

                On a different note, if you would like to “attend” a virtual 30-minute presentation on different targeted topics, send me an email (readers@juliejason.com) asking to be added to my email invitation list.

To read Julie Jason's books, go to: https://juliejason.com/author/julies-books.