Debbie Lester knows the dangers of elder abuse.
As chief financial officer of Missoula Aging Services, Lester also knows the vulnerability that senior citizens have regarding one specific form of that abuse: phishing scams.
“People are approached through email or electronically,” said Lester. “And these scams are particularly harmful to seniors, because it means that people are trying to solicit bank account information, pin numbers, credit card information, social security numbers, Medicare numbers.”
Information she says seniors are more likely than their tech savvier counterparts to hand over to unsavory hands.
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox agrees, which is why he wants to make addressing elder abuse as one of his top priorities in 2016.
“They work very hard, they've saved, they've built up their assets and their retirement,” said Fox. “But they also are oftentimes vulnerable because they maybe don't know how technology works, or the latest scam. So we really want to work harder in the coming years.”
Sometimes it isn't even as complicated as an online scam. Lester says a telephone call to a lonely senior citizen can end horribly wrong.
For example, if you did not enter an international lottery, you did not win that international lottery. Immediately hang up the phone.
“They should not be afraid to hang up,” said Lester. “I mean, especially if they get the call over the phone. They should not feel that it's rude or disrespectful to hang up the phone.”
Hanging up could mean the difference between happy retirement and a world of financial hurt for senior citizens.
Lester said if someone calls you asking for personal or financial information, red flags should go up immediately.
If you have any questions concerning scams, call Missoula Aging Services or local authorities.