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Protecting Vulnerable Loved Ones from Scams

Author: Jane Rickman - Freelance Writer
27 February 2018

Watching a loved one grow older and more vulnerable is difficult.

They may develop illnesses and need specialist care, whether at home, or in a hospital or hospice.Although it’s impossible to stop the passage of time, it is possible to offer help and protection to a loved one as they age. One of the things you can do, is to keep an eye out for fraudsters and scammers who may target older and vulnerable people. South African News 24 also advised the elderly and their family members to be wary of this growing trend in the nation.

Here are a few scams that commonly target the elderly and vulnerable, and some of the things you can watch out for to prevent your loved ones from falling victim to the scammers.

Financial Scams

Reverse mortgage may be an attractive proposition
for an elderly person who owns his or her own home, especially If they’re concerned about paying for health care.  A reverse mortgage is a loan based on the value of a person’s property.  It’s not repayable until the home is sold, or the owner passes away.  While they sound simple, reverse mortgages are complex financial products.  Fraudsters have been known to take advantage of the elderly by tricking them into taking out the mortgage and then stealing the proceeds, or by applying high pressure sales tactics to push elderly or vulnerable people into taking out loans that are not suitable, or are not the best option for them.

If your loved ones are considering releasing the equity of their property, make sure that they get independent financial advice from someone familiar with reverse mortgages. This consumer alert published on the Ombudsmen website contains useful information about reverse mortgages and when they may be suitable.

Older people should also be wary of financial schemes promising unrealistically high returns, or loans at low interest rates where a payment is required to release the funds.  As the South African Reserve Bank warns in its advice on “get rich quick” schemes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Internet Scams

The internet can be a lifeline for older people who are housebound.  They may not, however, be aware of the risks of using the internet such as the potential for identity theft, or theft from their bank accounts.  If your loved one does use the internet, try and make sure that the computer is secure by installing virus protection software for them, and warn them never to give access to their computer to any cold callers. 

Being the victim of a scam can have a devastating effect on people’s lives.  Scams can cause financial problems, potential homelessness, mental illness and the physical health problems that go with long term stress.   Make sure that you talk to your loved ones about fraudsters. Help them to spot well-known scams and, if they are the victim of a scam, be there to offer all the help and support you can.  

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