As we grow older, our chances of being victims of crime decrease dramatically. Yet when a lifetime of experience combines with the frailties associated with aging, older Americans often find themselves more concerned about falling prey to crime than they were during middle age. This wariness serves to make the senior population more alert about the potential for physical attacks or burglary. However, these do not present so great a threat to older adults.
However, the greatest hazard to well-being and trust in our senior living is found in fraud and confidence games—crimes we don’t often consider.
We’ve put together a few common sense precautions you can use to protect yourself against charlatans and swindlers to help give your peace of mind in your golden years.
Be alert when you’re out and about.
At Episcopal Retirement Homes, we know that you don’t put your life on hold when you become a senior, so we have a few tips to stay safe as you spend time out in the community.
- There’s safety in numbers, so try to plan your excursions with friends or family. A single older adult can make a tempting target.
- Discourage pick-pockets by keeping your wallet or purse out of reach. Carry your purse close to your body and your wallet in a front pocket or inside your coat.
- Decrease your chances of losing money by leaving credit cards you don’t need at home. Try not to carry large sums of cash or checks of great value. Direct deposit your Social Security check and other regular income checks.
- Practice vehicle safety. Keep your car doors locked even as you’re driving and be smart about where you park. Discourage break-ins by hiding any valuable items like GPS navigation systems or parking money that you keep in your car.
- If you take public transportation, try to sit close to the driver or an exit as you can.
- Always trust your instincts. If you feel uneasy about an individual or situation, leave quickly and calmly.
Make your home safe and secure.
Whether you’re part of a senior living community or live in your own home in an outside neighborhood, it is always best to practice caution.
- Don’t hide keys in mailboxes and planters or under doormats. Give spares to friends or trusted neighbors if you’re worried about getting locked out. If you live in an apartment or retirement community, security will be able to let you back into your home should you lose or forget your key.
- Ask for photo identification from service or delivery people before you let them in. Call the police or building security if they act suspicious or refuse to show identification.
Watch out for con artists
With a little bit of caution and common sense, you can easily detect fraudulent schemes.
- Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true like free vacations, sweepstakes or cures for diseases like cancer or arthritis especially if they ask for personal or financial details. No legitimate program should need your credit card, Social Security or bank account number to verify a prize, and it is illegal for telemarketers to ask for them.
- Don’t invest in get-rich-quick schemes. Ventures that promise low-risk, high-yield investments rarely follow through on these claims.
- Don’t let anyone rush you into signing anything whether it is an insurance policy, sales agreement or other contract. Always read forms and paperwork thoroughly and have advisors check over legal and financial documents.
- Beware individuals who claim to represent companies, consumer organizations or government agencies that offer a place in class action suits or claim the ability to help you recover lost or stolen funds.
The National Consumers League helps protect against the victimization of senior citizens by providing advice on how to detect fraud and up-to-date information about current scams. If you have suspicions about any kind of deal or offer, contact the police or Better Business Bureau.