When it comes to fraud and scam attempts, a particularly hard-hit section of the population is seniors—who just happen to make up a substantial portion of the CalPERS members we serve. To kick off Older Americans Month, we’ve compiled some tips to help you discuss this often difficult subject with your older family members and loved ones.
Seniors May Be Targeted
According to the New York Office of Children and Family Services (PDF), seniors lose around $1.5 billion a year to scammers. Several factors help make seniors more vulnerable, including the following:
- They tend to be more trusting, lonely, and willing to engage in conversation.
- They may be uninformed about sophisticated scams that involve various senior services or include a fake grandchild needing help.
- They’re less likely to report fraud due to shame or fear that relatives may think they’re no longer able to handle their own financial matters.
While it’s important to talk with aging family members about potential fraudsters and how to avoid being duped, this can be a difficult topic to approach. A major reason the topic is avoided is fear of sounding condescending or questioning a loved one’s state of mind.
Seniors are even more susceptible to fraud when younger family members don’t live nearby and can’t monitor potentially fraudulent mail, phone calls, or emails. If this is the case for an older loved one, you might want to explain your concerns to a trusted neighbor who can be your eyes and ears.
Tips to Help Prevent Fraud
Ultimately, you might need to sit down and have a conversation with an older loved one about consumer fraud. Here are some basic tips that may serve as a good starting point:
- Don’t trust strangers, particularly those who appear or call without notice.
- Don’t hire a contractor who promises thousands of dollars’ worth of work for an up-front fee.
- Don’t isolate yourself. Stay engaged with family and trusted friends and participate in neighborhood or community activities.
- Sign up for the national “Do Not Call” list by calling (888) 382-1222 or visiting the Federal Trade Commission.
- Unless you initiated the call, never give out credit card, banking, Social Security, Medicare, or other personal information over the phone.
For those seniors who are looking to fix their home or make improvements, they face a whole different set of scams. Contractor fraud is an ongoing issue for the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Contractors State License Board. They offer Senior Scam Stopper seminars to advise of construction-related scams and how aging consumers can protect themselves against this type of fraud. Other topics are also presented, including identity theft, auto repair, Medicare, and mail fraud. Visit the their website or call their outreach coordinator at (916) 255-3273 for more information.
Sadly, some fraudsters use CalPERS’ name and brand to try and perpetuate scams against our members. If you know or suspect a CalPERS member has been the victim or target of a scam attempt disguised as legitimate CalPERS business, please call us right away at 888 CalPERS (or 888-225-7377). You can also direct questions and concerns online to the Questions, Comments & Complaints section of our website.
As an additional step to protection, sit down with your older family members to ensure their my|CalPERS security settings are updated. Consider having them update their password to something stronger and different from passwords used on other websites. Also, we’ve recently updated the my|CalPERS security settings to include two-factor authentication, so please enable this new security setting in your account.