8 tipoffs that a senior might be a scam victim, and 5 ways you can help prevent a scam

Bradenton (Fla.) Herald file illustration

A reader: My mom is 84 years old. She has been getting lots of telemarketing calls lately. Callers seem to be asking for money regularly. Her mail seems to be increasing as well. I’m concerned that she may be tricked into giving out personal information She recently gave someone $3,400 though a wire transfer. She thought she was paying taxes on winnings from a foreign lottery. I’m very concerned that it may happen again. Of course, there were no lottery winnings. What can I do to keep her from becoming a victim again?

Blair Looney

Action Line: You are right to be concerned about your mother. Seniors are regularly targeted by scammers who are trying to separate seniors from their money. Seniors at risk are those who live alone, are at home a lot and have money.

The sooner you spot signs of financial abuse and doing something about it, the better. Red flags that may indicate financial abuse:

▪ Suspicious changes to powers of attorney or wills;

▪ your senior has a new phone friend;

▪ your senior prefers to stay in more and more;

▪ complaints about lost or stolen credit cards;

▪ sudden changes in banking;

▪ any transactions in large amounts or multiple withdrawals of cash;

▪ unpaid bills;

▪ unusual purchases.

What to do if you suspect your senior may be a victim:

▪ Talk to your senior! About finances, health, life, etc. It’s especially important as we age.

▪ Tell them about scams who prey on seniors.

▪ Be sure that your senior is talking to someone that they know and trust AND you know and trust about their finances.

▪ Call your local law-enforcement agency if you find that money is missing.

▪ Monitor your senior’s mail and phone calls.

If you feel your senior is no longer capable of caring for their own finances, you may want to consider a conservatorship. For this action, you should consult with an attorney and/or the court systems to see what it takes.

Seniors, when it comes to your money, only deal with people you have known for a long time and trust. Only donate to organizations that you know are absolutely trustworthy. Never accept a new offer with the promise of a word. Get all information in writing, especially where money and/or property is involved.

Never sign anything that you haven’t completely read and understood. Never feel pressured to sign anything. If it’s good today, it’s good tomorrow. Take your time! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Check with BBB before you send anyone money. If you know of a scam, report it to your BBB or your local district attorney.

Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 2600 W. Shaw Lane, Fresno, CA 93711 or