Thieves and scam-artists target the elderly because they may not be up-to-date on the latest technology. I worked at a major regional bank for over four years, and saw the same schemes pulled on the aged over and over again. As sickening as it is, criminals feed off of our elderly. Here is what you can do to protect your elderly loved one against checking account fraud.
Take away their paper checks
No, I’m not advocating taking away Grandma’s access to her money! What I am saying is paper checks are no longer a secure method of payment in the electronic age. With the routing and account numbers right along the bottom, anyone she writes a check to can fraudulently use those numbers to pay bills over the phone or online, make purchases, and drain her funds. I saw this situation play out over and over again.
Get Grandma a debit card and teach her how to use it
Make sure she understands if she is ever worried she may have given out her numbers to someone fishy, or that someone may have stolen her numbers, she needs to call and have the card shut down. Banks can shut a card down immediately and completely, something we cannot do with checks unless we close the entire checking account.
Set her up with online banking and teach her how it works
Most internet browsers, such as Flock and Google Chrome, can be set to remember a username and password combination after it is entered once. Set the bank’s website as her homepage and all she has to do is click and she’s in. Of course, make sure the computer itself is locked with a password she can remember and type easily. A screen magnifier can help with poor eyesight. If online banking is a no-go, make sure she’s set up with telephone banking and a large-button phone. If that also isn’t an option, put the customer service phone number on speed-dial for her.
With her permission, you or another trusted family member could also view her accounts online. With two sets of eyes scanning the transactions, anything curious will be noticed more quickly. She could also designate you to be an authorized speaker on her accounts, so you may call the bank on her behalf.
Make sure she understands she can call the bank for help
Honestly, that is why customer service exists. I would rather guide a sweet older guy or gal through the website a thousand times than have to sort out fraud once. In a job where disgusting, foul-mouthed tirades are a daily event, it is nice to actually be able to assist someone with a problem and resolve their issue. In the call center world, nice older folks’ accounts are often noted to access special perks. At my former employer, a note that said ‘sweetie’ meant we’d take extra time and care with the elderly, because they were kind and just needed help. Those were always my favorite calls.
In short, by dispensing of paper checks and teaching the elderly the ins and outs of getting help through the bank, your loved one can avoid being scammed out of their pension. By being astute and knowing to reach out when she needs help, everyone benefits by reducing fraud.