92,371 People Fell Victim to Elder Fraud In 2021. Here’s How to Avoid Joining Their Ranks

Financial scams are hardly a new thing. But in the wake of the pandemic, they seem to have exploded. And unfortunately, it's seniors who tend to get targeted by scammers the most.

Why is that the case? Seniors aren't always as tech-savvy as their younger counterparts. Because of that, scammers can use tools like fake email addresses to gather personal information from seniors and go after various sources of their income, from savings to Social Security benefits.

Between 2019 and 2021, the rate of reported losses due to elder fraud in the U.S. more than doubled to $1.7 billion, according to new Motley Fool research. And in 2021 alone, there were 92,371 seniors subjected to elder fraud.

Image source: Getty Images.

The good news, though, is that you don't have to resign yourself to getting hurt by elder fraud. Here's how to avoid becoming a victim.

1. Never respond to unsolicited contact

You may get random text messages, calls, and emails all the time from a variety of sources, from telemarketers to legitimate charities hoping you'll open up your wallet. But as a general rule, you should never give out personal data, like your date of birth, Social Security number, bank account number, or credit card number, in response to unsolicited outreach.

In fact, you should know that the IRS and Social Security Administration will not email or text you out of the blue with updates or questions you need to address. Rather, those agencies will communicate with you officially by mail. So if you get a text or email asking you to click on a link and follow instructions, delete it.

2. Shred all documents containing personal information

If you toss documents out in the trash that contain details such as your bank account or Social Security number, you could end up giving a scammer an open invite to upend your financial world. That's why it's so important to thoroughly shred all documents that contain such information.

If you don't have a paper shredder at home and/or don't feel confident using one, you can ask a relative or neighbor for help with this task. Some towns even offer paper shredding as an ongoing service, so it could pay to put in a call and see what options you have.

3. Sign up for electronic communication from your bank and other financial institutions

If email is something you use regularly, then you might as well use it as a means of getting updates from your bank, credit card companies, and retirement plan administrator. The less paper you receive with sensitive information, the less likely you may be to fall victim to financial fraud.

That said, you'll need to make sure your email password is a secure one that's hard to guess. And aim to only check emails from your bank or other financial institutions when there's no one around to look over your shoulder. Using public computers, like those at the library, is not a good idea when you're accessing personal information.

It's unfortunate that so many seniors are targeted by scammers each year. Knowing what to look out for could help you avoid falling into a trap — and getting hurt financially as a result.

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