April 5, 2022

Unfortunately, many scammers target older adults because they may have large sums of money saved, and they may not be as savvy online or over the phone. In fact, Hawaii’s elderly lost $5.4 million to fraud and scams in 2020.

So, how can we keep our kupuna safe from fraud? A combination of education and oversight will be your best option.

Talk to Your Elders about Scams

When you see scam alerts on the news or the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, share that information with your elders. Talk to them about how they can identify a scam and what they should do if a scammer calls, texts, or emails them. Encourage them to ask you for help in assessing whether a text or email is legitimate before they click any links or respond in any way.

If they receive an email or text from us or another financial institution, suggest that they call the institution named using a contact number they know to verify whether the information they are seeing is legitimate.

Opt Out When Possible

Limit the number of mail pieces with personal information or solicitations for credit by opting out. Visit optoutscreen.org or the Direct Marketing Association’s opt-out link to receive fewer marketing mailers. And sign up for electronic statements from HawaiiUSA and other financial institutions. Consider a locking mailbox or a PO Box at the post office, UPS Store, or different location if your elders prefer to receive physical mail.

Encourage Elders to Leave Cards at Home

Unless they plan to use a specific card when running errands, encourage them to leave unnecessary credit and debit cards at home. That way, if someone takes their wallet or they lose it, they won’t have lost all their cards.

Ensure they have the contact information for their cards, so they can quickly cancel or lock a card if it does get lost. If you keep an additional copy of the information, you can offer help if they need it.

Consider Joint Accounts or Account Oversight

If you are concerned about financial abuse, consider getting added to your elders’ accounts. That will allow you to access online and mobile banking to ensure that the balances and payments are what you expect. This joint account will also allow you to pay bills if your elders are ever unable to do so themselves.

Check on Family

Unfortunately, family members and caregivers are responsible for many elder fraud and financial abuse cases. And these cases can be challenging to prove and prosecute because many elders don’t want to hurt the person who defrauded them by holding them accountable.

One way to help prevent this is to provide respite time for family and non-family caregivers. If you give them a week away from the home, you could see signs of any untoward activity. Additionally, these things may happen because the caregiver is overworked or feels unappreciated. Giving them time to rest and care for themselves can help alleviate that concern.

Stay in Touch

When elderly family members are in a bad situation, they may isolate themselves. This seclusion can be because they are ashamed that they let fraud happen or because the person defrauding them may be forcing them to isolate. When you are a regular part of an elder’s life, it is harder for them to shut you out. This tactic also helps you keep tabs on your elder’s health and mental wellness because you’re there to see any changes over time.

It can be scary to think about others taking advantage of your elders. And the conversations about fraud can be challenging — some older adults feel attacked when you bring up scams and fraud or that you don’t trust them to take care of themselves. Try to be open and honest about your concerns without accusing them. Bringing up a news story you both watched can be a neutral opening for a conversation.

If you need help talking to your kupuna, try sharing websites that speak directly to them, such as the National Council on Aging’s Money Management articles. Or look for financial education courses online that will help them see when they should ask for help with a potential scam.

Contact us if you suspect that you or a loved one is a victim of fraud.

With a caring strategy, you can help keep your kupuna and their hard-earned money safe.