Risks to Seniors in the Age of Coronavirus
June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, so this month's issue of NXG Now! focuses on the ever-present risks of fraud facing our most vulnerable population, and the new risks associated with scams related to COVID-19 that target the elderly. This is an important story.
As the world continues to deal with COVID-19, seniors will likely to feel the effects of isolation much longer than the rest of the nation. This isolation is necessary to protect the health of these seniors but it also creates new challenges and concerns for family members, especially for those whose loved ones are in a long term care facility. This observance is a call-to-action for individuals, organizations, and communities to lift up their voices to promote awareness and a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons.
In observation of this date, we are providing a more personal perspective. This month's editorial content is a real world example of how this period of self-isolation is impacting our ability to protect the elderly from fraud. The interviewee is one of NXG’s own senior managers, Lisa Hardin.
Feel free to share this story with your account holders and we hope you will also utilize the resources referenced in this article to bring awareness to this important date.
June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day which provides an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons. Now more than ever, we hope that everyone will take the time to consider the plight of those who are in our most vulnerable population, the elderly, especially those who are in long term care facilities. Not only do these dedicated citizens of our country face an increased risk of sickness and even death from COVID-19 but they are psychologically traumatized by isolation from friends and family members. This isolation and the total dependence on institutional caretakers make these elders more vulnerable to scams and identity theft. The observance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is a call-to-action for individuals, organizations, and communities to lift up our voices and raise awareness about elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation; and it has never been more important than now.
This could be your story.
It was Monday, March 9th when Lisa received word that her 81-year-old mother Reba’s assisted living facility would be closed to visitors. In order to protect their residents, strict new procedures were put in place, ending an old way of life for residents and creating a “new normal” of social separation and isolation. Stunned, Lisa told a co-worker that she hadn’t received any advanced notice or warning this would be happening. She didn’t have a chance to hug her mom before the facility shut down. Reba’s 82nd birthday was coming and she would be celebrating it in her room alone, safely distanced from family and friends.
Following the CDC’s recommendations for caregiver and nursing homes, Reba’s facility determined they needed to get ahead of the spread of COVID-19. While closing to visitors without warning seemed harsh, it was a step to protect them from the unnecessary spread of the virus. Lisa’s mother is actually fortunate. Many nursing homes around the country reacted too late, finding themselves overwhelmed with cases and sometimes deaths.
Being quarantined in a caregiver facility is very different from the realities of quarantining at home. Her mother only leaves her room for a daily trip outside, if possible. She is served three meals a day in her room. Long gone are the days of meals in the dining hall with her friends and social hours filled with bridge. Now she spends her time waiting for visits from family who can only see her through her window or at a safe distance while outside.
Reba looks forward to daily phone calls from her children and text messages sharing funny videos or stories. She’s happy to have her visits from caregivers, donned in gloves and masks, who deliver meals, medication, and emotional support. Although she has compared the living situation to a prison, Reba has become totally dependent on these caregivers as her lifeline. Families of residents place a huge amount of trust that caregivers are taking the residents’ best interests to heart. “Protecting the residents from the virus and meeting their daily needs is what they are entrusted to do, but it’s more than just that. We have to trust caregivers to do what is right by the residents in every situation,” said Lisa.
The nightmare of living through the pandemic doesn't solely apply to its residents. Facility caregivers are stretched thin and when employees quit or get ill, it's up to the entire staff to pitch in, even if their previous job was primarily operational. The facility may be forced to bring in new employees or contractors, potentially short-cutting the screening process due to the desperate urgency of the situation. Even when the virus is more under control it is likely that long term care facilities will continue to practice these severe lockdowns until a vaccination for the virus is found and widely distributed, which may reach into 2021. During these times it is important to remember that persons who do not have your family member’s best interest at heart may be able to reach them through television, postal mail, email, and social media. Separated from the support and guidance that they normally have from close family members these seniors may become more trusting of caregivers and outsiders, even those that they don’t really know.
Recently, Lisa discovered her mother had set-up an Amazon account on her computer. “I knew my mother wasn’t capable of setting that up by herself,” said Lisa. She in fact, had not. Reba asked a caregiver to set it up for her, using the same login and password she uses on all her accounts, including her online banking account. “It’s not that I don’t trust her caregiver, I don’t know her at all,” said Lisa. Having worked many years in the identity theft business, Lisa was quick to change her mother’s passwords, just in case. Lisa and her mom were lucky. Lisa acted quickly and there was no evidence that the caregiver had any malicious intent. But it could have been much, much worse.
Caregivers and administrators in nursing homes are a rare and special kind of people. We should give thanks to all who do this difficult job which provides only modest financial reward. But we also need to be wary that there are those that seek to take advantage of seniors who, during this time of isolation, may be even more vulnerable to social scams and exploitation as their families try to manage their care from afar.
Some of the recent COVID-19 related scams that are targeting seniors include:
Selling virus or antibody testing kits and other COVID-19 related products. During the transaction the scammer will ask the senior for their social security number, their medicare number, or both.
Offers to expedite or safeguard the senior’s payment as part of the federal government stimulus plan, with scammers asking for the senior’s personal information such as bank account number and Social Security number.
Persons posing as officials of the federal government, a healthcare organization, or an insurance company asking for confirmation of entitlement to benefits, including asking for personal information.
Fraudulent charity schemes, sometimes using the names of family members to validate their authenticity.
On June 15th, we once again bring attention to the issue of protecting our most vulnerable with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Now, more than ever, it’s important to protect the elderly. Please review the following Tips on Protecting Yourself from Scams for yourself and anyone you may know who may need a little extra help. Together we can implement changes that can help prevent future identity theft and scams.
Tips on Protecting Yourself from Scams
1. Sign up for the Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov. This will help to prevent unwanted phone sales calls.
2. When no longer needed, shred junk mail, old bills, bank statements and any other documents that have personal identifying information.
3. Don’t give out personal information over the phone unless you originated the call and you know with whom you are talking. Particularly safeguard your Social Security number.
4. It is ok to be rude. If a salesperson calls you or comes to your door who does not seem to be taking no for an answer, it is ok to terminate the conversation. Hang up the phone or close the door. You don’t have to let yourself be pressured into anything.
5. Never sign something that you don’t understand. Have a trusted and unbiased professional or family member assist you when entering contracts or signing legal documents.
6. If you hire someone for personal assistance services, in home care services, etc. ensure that they have been properly screened with criminal background checks completed.
7. Learn about scams and stay informed
Sign up for AARP’s Fraud Watch: https://action.aarp.org/site/SPageNavigator/FWN_Registration_Page.html
Check out AARP’s interactive national fraud map: http://action.aarp.org/site/PageNavigator/FraudMap.html
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers information and tools for older Americans: www.consumerfinance.gov/older-americans
The Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force offers resources and reports to help protect yourself against common types of frauds and scams: www.stopfraud.gov/protect.html
Stay alert to common frauds and scams by checking consumer protection sites such as www.Fraud.org
External Web Site Policy and FBI Common Fraud Schemes: www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes
Courtesy of World Elderly Abuse Awareness Day
Social Media Content
Post #1 - Elder abuse is a matter of worldwide concern that demands a multifaceted response. Take action and be part of the solution. http://eldermistreatment.usc.edu/weaad-home #WEAAD #elderscams #coronacams #yourprotectionpartner
Post #2 - June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Older people in the US lose an estimated $2.6 billion annually due to elder financial abuse and exploitation. Elder abuse also creates health care and legal costs for our society. We can change this. Be part of the solution: http://eldermistreatment.usc.edu/weaad-home #WEAAD #yourprotectionpartner
Post #3 - With many of our elders isolated in long-term care facilities, now more than ever, it is the time to ensure they are protected from scams. #irs #coronascams #stimulusscams #yourprotectionpartner
Post #4 - It is up to all of us to work together to create a sturdy structure of support for our senior population and prevent and report elder abuse. Learn how: http://eldermistreatment.usc.edu/weaad-home #WEAAD #yourprotectionpartner
Post #5 - We are here to help! If you have questions or concerns about how to protect your elder family member and keep their identity safe, go to <FI_WEBSITE> today for tips and information. #WEAAD #yourprotectionpartner
With COVID-related scams hitting the headlines, more financial institutions are adding nxg|PROTECT Elder Care as part of their initiatives around Elder Financial Abuse. Providing access to patient, skilled professionals to research possible identity theft and remediate fraudulent transactions, this service is a must-have for protecting seniors. Reach out to your NXG client manager to review your program to either increase your coverage or add nxg|PROTECT Elder Care for a low monthly fee.
As the COVID-19 crisis reaches its peak and more people are online, the incidence of identity theft is skyrocketing. NXG has developed a month-to-month nxg|PROTECT Care program that provides access to our professional Identity Recovery Advocates that can cover those account holders that may not otherwise be qualified in your standard program. This short term program is available at a small fraction of our normal cost through the end of 2020 to make it affordable for all of our clients. Ask your NXG Client Manager how you can get started closing the coverage gap for your account holders.
Things have changed pretty dramatically in the last few months, and we continue to provide valuable services for you and your account holders. nxg|PROTECT Biz provides state-of-the- art telehealth services for your small business customers and their employees. This package also includes mobile phone insurance to protect the business owner’s lifeline - their smartphone. We also help you protect small businesses from the effects of outside intrusion and mishandling of data by providing access to valuable data breach remediation and comprehensive legal services. Ask your NXG Client Manager for more information.