Senior Citizens Resources: Helping Protect Our Elderly With Resources On Money, Housing, Health, and More
Senior citizens are prime targets for fraud attempts and scams due to several factors according to the FBI. First is their likelihood to have a "nest egg" of money saved up, and second is the fact that they often don't report crimes out of fear of being seen as having reduced mental capacities by their family members.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) found that the annual financial loss of elders has quadrupled in the last five years. Adults aged 70 to 79 years old lost on average $45,300. When the suspect was known to the victim the losses were even greater at an average of $50,000. Estimated total losses range from $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion a year, these statistics are underestimated though because much of the abuse goes unreported.
Many of these fraud cases begin with a phone call. Elderly are highly susceptible to phone fraud since many still have landlines. AARP reports that only 23% of those over 65 lived in a wireless only household, this is a steep drop off compared to other age groups. More than two thirds of adults aged 18 to 24 live in wirelesss only households, 63% of those over 35 to 44 years old, and 47% of 45 to 64 year olds have wireless only households. There are many variations of phones scams, and scammers target the elderly because they have landlines and are more easily reached via caller ID spoofing.
We have dedicated ourselves to increasing awareness about phone scams that affect the elderly and giving helpful tips on how to avoid these scams. Common phone scams that target those over 55 years are the grandparent phone scam, the Jamaican lottery phone scam, and Medicare phone scams.
To help keep our seniors safe, we have compiled a list of helpful fraud prevention and general resources for individuals over 55 and for those who are caring for elders.
- Reporting Phone Scams
- Romance Scams
- Direct Mail Scams
- Medicare Scams
- Social Security Scams
- State and Federal Agencies
- Senior Housing Resources
- Legal Resources
- Personal Finance Resources
- Medicare/Medicaid Resources
- Transportation Resources
- Food and Nutrition Resources
- Utilities Resources
- Caregiving Resources
- Elder Abuse Resources
- Wellness Resources
- Fall Prevention Resources
- Special Needs Seniors' Resources
- Veterans' Resources
- State-Based Senior Resources
- Final Thoughts
We've created a helpful guide on how to report scam phone calls. If you've been targeted by a nuisance caller it's important to report them to the appropriate authorities.
Scammers claiming to be from the IRS should be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). You can file a report online or call 1-800-366-4484 to report IRS impersonators. Remember the IRS will NEVER call and demand payment of back taxes.
Other spam and scam calls, like free vacation offer scams, unwanted telemarketers, charity scammers, credit card interest reduction scams, and overly aggressive debt collectors, can be reported the the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Reporting phone scams to your local authorities and your state's Attorney General is a good practice too. Many scammers will target specific geographical areas at a time, it's likely that if you are receiving scam calls others in your community are also receiving them.
Romance scammers particularly target those over 50 on online dating sites. It's important to know the warning signs of a romance scammer. They are usually very quick to profess their love, they are unable to meet in person, and they will ask for money.
If you or a loved one is being targeted by a romance scammer, do not wire money to them and report them to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
Junk mail can pose a potential threat to seniors, many lottery phone scams start with a mailer that seems like a sweepstakes and request information such as phone and address.
SeniorNet, a non-profit organization that provides computer education to seniors, has created a helpful guide on how to detect mail fraud and reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. AARP also has compiled a list of companies that will help you stop all of the junk mail.
DMAchoice is an online tool that allows you to manage your snail mail.
OptOutPrescreen allows you to opt-out of receiving credit card offers in the mail.
CatalogChoice allows you to opt-out of receiving certain catalogs in the mail.
Medicare fraud comes in many forms and costs taxpayers an estimated $52 bilion according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Some Medicare scams take place over the phone. The scammers requests personal information including Social Security number and other financial information.
The most common scam revolves around Medicare cards. The caller says the person’s Medicare card has expired and the senior must pay for a new card. Seniors know that without a Medicare card, their benefits cease to exist. However, Medicare cards are free. They never expire nor do they need to be reactivated.
Other scare tactics include attempts at verifying your identity, offering free medical supplies, fraudulently offering to deliver free medical equipment eligible for reimbursement, requiring the senior to supply additional information or lose benefits, offering rebates or refunds for services, and signing up for specific plans which require a Social Security number.
Like most government agencies, Medicare rarely calls cardholders. The agency mainly contacts cardholders by mail. If Medicare does call, a representative will request that the cardholder call 1-800-MEDICARE. When someone calls the toll free number, he may be asked for basic information to verify identity. A cardholder will never be asked for financial information.
If you suspect someone is using your Medicare card, it should be reported immediately. If someone calls claiming to be a Medicare representative, hang up immediately. Report the call to Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048.
When reporting Medicare fraud be sure to have the following information:
- Name and Medicare number
- Provider's name and any other identifying information you have
- Service or item which is in question and when it was purportedly given or delivered
- Payment amount paid by Medicare
- Date of your Medicare Summary Notice or claim
The Social Security Administration (SSA) reports a dramatic rise in Social Security related scams. Both in the form of faked official-looking documents sent by email and via robocalls and live callers U.S. citizens continue to be targeted. In the case of a phone call, the caller says the person’s Social Security number has been suspended or deactivated due to tax debt, criminal activity, or identity theft. The scam involves getting the cardholder’s personal information.
The scammer claims that the cardholder must pay the debt or fine and also pay to reinstate the card. The call often originates from the Social Security Administration’s main number - 1-800-772-1213. In truth, the main number is spoofed and the call is not made from the SSA. If anyone calls claiming to be a representative of the Social Security administration, hang up and call the SSA directly at the main office number.
The SSA regularly publishes information about Social Security scams. The SSA rarely calls anyone unless it’s to set an appointment. Social Security numbers and cards are never suspended, nor do they expire. Claims regarding tax debt or other financial information are scams.
Report any potential scams to the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General online or call their fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271, or 1-866-501-2101(TTY).
The National Council on Aging provides information on each state's aging council. Your state's aging council can provide you with local resources, like nutrition programs, caregiver support programs, and other community programs.
Benefits.gov will help you connect to benefits programs that you are eligible for including Medicaid and energy assistance programs.
The Eldercare Locator can help you find eldercare resources in your community. You can search their database by location or topic, or you can call them at 1-800-677-1116.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides helpful resources for seniors who are staying in their home and for those who are looking for apartments.
Needing to downsize or move into nursing homes or assisted living facilities is often the reality for many seniors. To help with the transition of moving LifeStorage provides these great tips for seniors and people with disabilities who are in the process of moving.
SeniorSafteyReviews also has a comprehensive guide on how to make your home senior safe, since many families will choose to take on the care of elderly loved ones this guide gives great ideas for everything from preventing falls to protecting seniors from theft. Porch.com also provides a great guide for seniors on aging in place, it covers everything from home maintenance and renovations to insurance.
There are many resources and organizations that are dedicated to helping the elderly. It's important for families who are acting as caregivers to their elderly to meet with an attorney in order to avoid problems, like issues with powers of attorney.
The American Bar Association (ABA) allows you to search for legal counsel by your state. The ABA also has a dedicated Commission on Law and Aging that works to improve the legal rights, dignity, autonomy, quality of life, and quality of care of aging persons.
In addition to the ABA, there is also NAELA. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc. seeks to provide support to organizations that help aging and special needs individuals.
Justice in Aging is a nonprofit that fights against senior poverty and provides legal consultations to low-income individuals.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) provides many tools for seniors and for their families.
The CFPB provides resources for the financial protection of older Americans, including information regarding powers of attorney, court-appointed guardians, and trustees in their free and downloadable guide for managing someone else's money.
- Common Types of Elder Financial Exploitation
- Scams Targeting Veterans
- Identity Theft
- Medical Identity Theft
- Scams that Target Homeowners
- Planning for Unexpected Life Events
- How to Be Financially Prepared for Disasters
Seniors are also entitled to discounts, CouponChief has created a great senior discounts guide. The guide lists all of the retailers and companies that provide discounts to seniors.
For more information check out Money Crashers' retirement investing articles. They give great tips and reviews on retirement finances and services. Dealspotr has also put together a list of ways for seniors to save money on healthcare costs.
Another source of income for seniors can be annuities, which can be purchased and used to build a retirement fund. For more information on annuities, Annuity.org offers resources on annuities and how to avoid annuity scams.
As mentioned earlier in this guide Medicare fraud is a big problem. Elderly are susceptible to Medicare and Medicaid fraud, especially during the open enrollment period that takes place. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) offers resources for Medicare and Medicaid recipients.
Seniors and family members can find helpful resources to find doctors, hospitals and other providers as well as any necessary Medicare forms on Medicare's website. Additional resources include information on what mail Medicare will send you, what to do if you lose your Medicare card, and a list of phone numbers and websites that can be trusted.
Those who are new to Medicare can also download or request to be mailed the "Medicare & You" handbook which goes over the parts of Medicare and covers everything from sign up to knowing your rights.
The National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC) provides transportation services to older adults, people with disabilities, and for their caregivers. The NADTC has five goals:
- To engage seniors and the disabled before new transportation options are created in order to get insights and improve programs before they are implemented.
- To ensure that seniors and the disabled know about the transportation services available to them.
- To offer assistance to seniors and the disabled in selecting the best transportation options to meet their needs.
- To provide reliable, convenient, comfortable, and safe transportation to seniors and the disabled.
- To follow the Americans with Disabilities Act to assure that persons with disabilities are not cut off from their community and have adequate transportation options.
Volunteer opportunities are also available at the NADTC. The NADTC can be contacted at [email protected] or 1-866-983-3222.
Other transportation services for seniors include iTN America, which is a nonprofit, national transportation network, Veyo, a non-emergency medical transportation service that partners with insurance companies, and GoGoGrandparent, a 24/7 service that allows you to call up a Lyft or Uber from your landline.
The Administration on Aging (AoA) is a government agency that administers and oversees national programs for senior citizens. The agency oversees community-based agencies called Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs). The local agencies are either public or private nonprofit resource centers staffed by knowledgeable professionals with information on the senior’s local area. The AAAs have resources on food programs such as Meals on Wheels, local food banks and food pantries, and other nutritional resources. You can search for your local Area Agency on Aging here.
Additional programs similar to Meals on Wheels includes Mom's Meals, which delivers fully-prepared, refrigerated meals they provide specialized menus including diabetes-friendly meals, vegetarian and gluten-free options, amonst others, and MealPro, which offers a wide array of healthy meals.
The National Council on Aging provides information on federally funded food and nutrition programs and services for low-income seniors and people with disabilities. Most of the services are operated by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. The services include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps), Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, Commodity Supplemental Food Program, and The Emergency Food Assistance Program.
The National Council on Aging provides information on several government programs including:
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federal program that provides grants for assistance with utilities and home improvements that increase energy efficiency. Programs differ by state.
- The U.S. Department of Energy oversees the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). The federally-funded program provides information and funding on the reduction of energy bills and making energy-efficient changes to the home. Homes can be owned or rented.
- The National Energy Assistance Referral project offers national and local resources to prevent utilities from being shut off. Contact them at 1-866-674-6327 or TTY 1-866-367-6228.
The NCOA also offers other senior citizen resources including Looking Beyond LIHEAP: Alternative Sources of Energy Assistance. It details additional programs and forms of Energy Assistance.
Oftentimes caregiving falls on loved ones. There are several resources for family caregivers including AARP's resources for family caregivers, the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) who's goal is to improve caregiver lives as well as the lives of those they care for, and there is the Well Spouse Foundation, which connects spousal caregivers to support groups in their area.
The National Alliance for Caregiving is another nonprofit association that has dedicated itself over the past 25 years to improving quality of life for friends and family members who have taken on the role of caregiver. They offer several guidebooks including books for caregivers to individuals with mental health issues, memory loss, and guides on fall prevention.
The National Institute on Aging provides information on caregivers, physical and mental wellbeing, dementia, and other health-related concerns.
Senior Service Directory offers information on caregiving services including health insurance, medical care, family caregivers, home care, assisted living facilities, independent living, nursing homes, memory care, personal care, long-term care, and continuing care.
The Nursing Home Abuse Center reports that according to the U.S. Department of Justice nearly 1 in 10 seniors in the U.S. suffer from elder abuse each year. Elderly women are targeted more often than elderly men. Elder abuse may take on many different forms and can include everything from financial exploitation to physical and sexual abuse, as well as emotional.
Help Guide also supplies information on various types of elder abuse including physical, mental and sexual abuse, neglect, financial exploitation and healthcare fraud. The website also lists warning signs of abuse.
The National Center on Elder Abuse provides senior citizen resources regarding elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The agency offers information, research, training, best practices and news to professionals and the community.
Nursing Home Alert helps seniors identify their legal rights and report abuse and neglect cases in nursing homes. The agency’s newsletter provides information on what can be the signs of abuse and legal resources.
Some seniors may no longer be able to drive or may not have easy access to transportation options, the National Center on Senior Transportation provides this guide on transportation options for seniors.
Additionally, the National Council on Aging provides this guide for helping elderly stay fit, and there is also this guide which outlines several different physical activities that are great for seniors to try out.
Other seniors may also need special adaptive equipment to help them with mobility and other everyday tasks. The Real Deal blog gives a helpful guide on how to save while purchasing adaptive equipment. Consumer Affairs also provides a comprehensive guide on adjustable beds. SeatUp also provides this helpful guide on senior ergonomics.
Another issue, which many seniors may face, is living with and treating Mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused mainly by exposure to asbestos. The Mesothelioma Guide offers free resources to those who are diagnosed.
Falls can be dangerous and can often destroy a senior's confidence and independence. The National Council on Aging states that 1 in 4 adults over the age of 65 falls every year.
The National Council on Aging provides fall prevention resources that includes exercises and things that caregivers should discuss.
Seniors with special needs may often face greater financial and health problems, there are a variety of state and federal programs that are designed to help special needs seniors. The Retiring Wise Blog has put together a group of resources to help families caring for seniors with special needs.
Additionally, Power of Attorney is another legal situation that you may find yourself in when taking care of elderly family members. To navigate the waters of this legal process FormSwift has created a helpful guide on Power of Attorney.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a variety of benefits and services to Veterans and their dependents.
Maryville University also offers this helpful guide on understanding a veteran with PTSD. This can affect veterans of all ages and it's important to know how to cope and live with post-traumatic stress disorder.
We've compiled a list of the most relevant state-based senior resource agency to help in the first steps of finding local resources.
Mahatma Ghandi said "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." At CallerSmart, we feel that this sentiment is very true. A person's true character can be seen in how they treat those who are vulnerable and those who sometimes do not have a voice.
That's why we feel it is important to protect and support our seniors. Whether it's through education, community support, or specialized services and programs, know that if you're a senior or if you're a caregiver there are many resources available to you and you're not alone.