Fraud and Elderly | COVIDConvo with Dr. Wendy Tong | Ep. 5

As more people are taking responsibility for individual wellness and the community health, into their own hands, there has been an increase in citizens making private purchases of various COVID related products be it test kits, treatments, or PPE (personal protective equipment). 

The risks vary from a poor quality face mask that may not filter respiratory droplets like an N-95 mask but still provides a facial covering and barrier to larger airborne droplets. Treatments that are not only ineffective but may even be harmful or toxic. To test results that give false negatives and conferring a false sense of security to a person who is a carrier. The average financial loss for an elder who has been a victim is over $30,000.

Scammers prey on all populations however elders are particularly vulnerable because they have a tendency to be more trusting and often live alone and the loneliness means that they are more susceptible to that “nice man or woman” who spent time with them. 

Popular scams are fraudulent health products, charities, sweepstakes. I’ve seen fake insurance plans, assistance with legal and tax documents, magazine subscriptions. It really runs the gamut. 

Alex – I have elderly parents who live remotely from me, how can I educate my parents and support them to prevent this from happening?
Wendy – First, do not be afraid to become involved in your parents’ financial matters. They can still make their own financial decisions, you might just have to present your help as a second level of oversight to make sure everything is in order. 
Other recommendations: 2) engage in regular conversation with your parents, ask them who they are talking to and what kinds of conversations they are having, are there people who are helping them or even making purchases for them? how are they spending their money these days? 3) visit regularly if you can 4) tell them to hire people only after there is some verification of identity or they get some contact information 5) instruct your parents to never make “on the spot” financial decisions 6) be wary of people asking for personal and/or financial information 7) put your parents on the National do not call list 1-888-382-1222.

Alex – what if you suspect you’ve been the victim of a scam or fraudulent activity?
Wendy – The AARP has a fraud watch helpline where they can give tips and advice to spot scams and also recommend actions to take. They also offer emotional support to seniors and their families. They can refer you to law enforcement. The number is 1-877-908-3360.

I encourage people to report if they suspect fraudulent activity. Only 1 in 3 cases are reported. I’ve put in reports to the BBB and to the FBI when I’ve come across the suspicious activity. A report could stop the activity affecting other people in our community. It’s just like we all can contribute to preventing the spread of COVID.

To listen to Dr. Wendy’s full GET episode on Coronavirus Outbreak and Healthcare System in the US click HERE.

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