At least once a week I hear from a local senior who has received a phone call, knock at the front door or piece of mail that they question. Thankfully, most are savvy enough to hang up, slam the door or shred unwanted mail. However, millions of older adults fall prey to financial scams every year. Use these tips to protect yourself or an older adult you know.
1) Be aware that you are at risk from strangers — and from those closest to you.
More than 90 percent of all reported elder abuse is committed by the older person's own family members, most often their adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and others. Common tactics include depleting a joint checking account, promising but not delivering care in exchange for money or property, outright theft and other forms of abuse, including physical abuse, threats, intimidation and neglect of basic care needs. Everyone is at risk of financial abuse, even people without high incomes or assets.
2) Don't isolate yourself — stay involved! Isolation is a huge risk factor for elder abuse. Most family violence only occurs behind closed doors, and elder abuse is no exception.
Some older people self-isolate by withdrawing from the larger community. Others are isolated because they lose the ability to drive, see or walk about on their own. Some seniors fear being victimized by purse snatchings and muggings if they venture out.
3) Always tell solicitors: "I never buy from (or give to) anyone who calls or visits me unannounced. Send me something in writing." Don't buy from an unfamiliar company and always ask for and wait until you receive written material about any offer or charity.
OK, maybe Girl Scout cookies or school fund-raising items may be an exception, but a good rule of thumb is to never donate if it requires you to write your credit card information on any forms. It's also good practice to obtain a salesperson's name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address and business license number before you transact business. And always take your time in making a decision.
4) Shred all receipts with your credit card number. Identity theft is a huge business. To protect yourself, invest in — and use — a paper shredder. Monitor your bank and credit card statements and never give out personal information over the phone to someone who initiates the contact with you. The senior center has a shredder for you to use.
5) Sign up for the "Do Not Call" list and take yourself off multiple mailing lists. Visit www.donotcall.gov to stop telemarketers from contacting you. Be careful with your mail. Do not let incoming mail sit in your mailbox for a long time. When sending out sensitive mail, consider dropping it off at a secure collection box or directly at the post office. You also can regularly monitor your credit ratings and check on any unusual or incorrect information at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
6) Use direct deposit for benefit checks to prevent checks from being stolen from the mailbox. Using direct deposit ensures that checks go right into your accounts and are protected. Clever scammers or even scrupulous loved ones have been known to steal benefits checks right out of mailboxes or from seniors' homes if they are laying around.
7) Never give your credit card, banking, Social Security, Medicare or other personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call. Misuse of Medicare dollars is one of the largest scams involving seniors. Common schemes include billing for services never delivered and selling unneeded devices or services to beneficiaries. Protect your Medicare number as you do your credit card, banking and Social Security numbers and do not allow anyone else to use it. Be wary of salespeople trying to sell you something they claim will be paid for by Medicare. Review your Medicare statements to be sure you have, in fact, received the services billed, and report suspicious activities to (800) MEDICARE.
8) Be skeptical of all unsolicited offers and thoroughly do your research. Be an informed consumer. Take the time to call and shop around before making a purchase. Take a friend with you who may offer some perspective to help you make difficult decisions.
Also, carefully read all contracts and purchasing agreements before signing and make certain that all of your requirements have been put in writing. Understand all contract cancellation and refund terms. As a general rule governing all of your interactions as a consumer, do not allow yourself to be pressured into making purchases, signing contracts or committing funds. These decisions are yours and yours alone.
Thanks for help
Many thanks to all the volunteers who delivered Meals on Wheels last week. Are you interested in helping with Meals on Wheels? Substitute drivers are always needed. If you would like to help, call Patti at 272-3620 or 260-6282.
Thursday is our 35th birthday party. Join us for cake and ice cream. The day begins with TOPS Club at 8:30 a.m., followed by art class at 10 a.m. Gentle exercises start at 11 a.m. The Ambassador Singers practice at 1 p.m. Skip-Bo begins at 1 p.m. The birthday party begins at 2 p.m. Another very interesting event today will be the Kansas Humanities Council program "From Fatherland to Farmland: German Prisoners of War in the Great Plains." Many German prisoners of war were housed in the Great Plains and worked as farm labor. Learn about the connections made here. The presenter is Matthew Thompson, registrar of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Museum in Abilene. His program begins at 5:30 p.m. and is open to the public. Yoga begins at 6:30 p.m.
Friday, the day begins with line dancing at 8:30 a.m. A nurse from St. Catherine Hospital will be here from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Bridge starts at 12:45 p.m.
Saturday has Prairie Land Food pick-up at noon. The pool room is open from 1 to 4 p.m.
Monday our series "Lunch with the Doctor" will feature Dr. Toan Nguyen, local optometrist. He will be speaking about diabetic eye conditions. Come at 11:30 a.m. to visit with Dr. Nguyen and stay for lunch. On the menu is pork chops.
Tuesday has walking at 8:30 a.m. The computer class begins at 9 a.m. Gentle exercises are at 11 a.m. Pitch starts at 12:30 p.m. Bridge begins at 1:15 p.m.
Oct. 2 has line dancing at 8:30 a.m. TOPS 1116 meets at 10 a.m. Pinochle starts at 12:40 p.m. The regular Wednesday night dance features the Ortiz Band. The recommended donation is $5 per person. Come join the fun.
Lunch is served at noon.
Thursday: Oven-fried chicken, mashed potatoes, stewed tomatoes, sherbet, wheat roll.
Friday: Taco salad, corn, tortilla chips, pineapple tidbits.
Monday (lunch with Dr. Nguyen): Pork chop, sweet potato, California blend vegetables, apricots, wheat roll.
Tuesday: Pork roast, potatoes and gravy, cauliflower, blueberry dessert, wheat roll.
Oct. 2: Beef stroganoff on noodles, carrots, mandarin oranges, bread.
Celebrating 35 years at the Senior Center of Finney County. Check out our website at www.seniorcenterfc.com.