by The Sullivan & Sullivan Team
As we age, it’s important to have a good support system in place. Of course, this includes family, friends and doctors, but it’s also important to surround yourself with business professionals who will look out for your best interests. Money is important to ensure you have what you need as you get older and you don’t want to lose it to dishonest or corrupt businesses.
It’s no secret that aging adults are often the targets of fraud and scams. According to an FBI report, it’s estimated that seniors lost almost $1 billion to scams in 2020 alone. Realistically, that number is likely much higher because many of those who have been taken advantage of don’t report it due to embarrassment and humiliation.
There are a variety of reasons that older adults become the targets of scams. Seniors are usually polite and trusting. They may have large savings accounts and good credit, making them more attractive to scammers. Widowed individuals may also be lonely and crave the attention and conversation that these con artists are willing to provide them.
You have probably heard about the romance scam or the grandparent scam and you may think you could never fall for something like that – but it’s not always that simple. A lot of older adults fall prey to unethical contractors, financial professionals or other businesses. So how do you protect yourself from becoming a victim of fraudulent business practices? Here are a few tips:
1) Trust your gut! If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
2) Avoid the door-to-door sales pitch. If you don’t know the person knocking on your door, don’t answer it. The same goes for unsolicited emails or phone calls….and NEVER give your personal or financial information out to these folks.
3) Shop around before making a major purchase or home repair. Do your homework to find the best price for the product or service but remember – if the price is too low you may get what you pay for! When having work done on your home, it is customary to pay part of the cost upfront. A reputable contractor will typically collect the balance due upon completion of the project. If a contractor requests payment in full before starting the work, that should be a red flag.
4) Beware of contracts. Make sure you fully understand the terms of any contract before you sign. Give yourself a few days to review the contract. An honest business should be willing to allow you time to do that. Never sign a blank form of any kind. Make sure all terms and charges are clearly spelled out.
5) Don’t be afraid to say NO! Scammers may act insulted or get belligerent. They will use well-rehearsed speeches to make you feel guilty. Don’t fall for it!
These tips can help you avoid the dishonest companies but then the big question becomes, “How do I find an honest professional?” They are out there! You just need to know how to search them out. Here are a few ideas:
1) Friends and family can be a great source for referrals. If someone has had a great experience with a business, they are usually more than happy to share them with you.
2) Do your homework! Read reviews on Google or other sites, ask for and call references, and check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints.
3) Forge a relationship with a REALTOR®. Even if you’re not ready to sell your house just yet, a real estate agent can be a great source for home professionals such as repair contractors, painters and more.
4) Check with other businesses that you currently have a relationship with. For instance, your attorney may know a great financial planner or insurance agent that they would love to refer to you and it’s likely they have the same mindset and integrity as the referring business.
5) Ask for a consultation. Most businesses (of all types) will offer an initial consultation at little or no cost. Take the time to meet with them and determine if their personality and style of doing business is a good fit for you. Again, trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, move along until you find someone who does. Be persistent!
Using these tips can help ensure that you are in business with people who won’t take advantage of you.
To find out more about how to assemble your team and who should be a part of it, check out our next seminar, “Be Smart About Building Your Support Team.” There are two chances to catch it:
April 14th at 2pm
Lakeview Event & Conference Center in Arlington
May 5th at 2pm
THE SPOT at Celebration Magazine in Richardson
To register visit www.SmartSeniorSeries.com or call 817-635-1043.