Last week, I talked about how to protect your family members from financial scams. But what if you're sitting down for Christmas Dinner and you come to find out that Grandma has fallen victim to one of these scammers. What do you do?
Find Out What Information Was Given Out
First things first, find out what sort of scam the family member fell for.
Did they go and buy gift cards and transfer the numbers? That's good and bad. Bad in that the money is gone forever, but good in that there was no additional personal information given. But lately, these aren't the sorts of scams that people are seeing.
Did they give out bank account information? Social Security numbers? Copies of a Driver's License or other identification card? Did they give out anyone else's information? Remember, sometimes parents have memorized or stored their child's Social Security number. You want to be sure that wasn't given out.
Freeze Their Credit Reports
Contact all the credit bureaus and put a freeze on the person's credit report. I recently learned that is more than just the big three - you should freeze Experian, Transunion, Equifax, Innovis and Chexsystems. This generally isn't a bad idea with any older family member if you're worried about their ability to manage their finances. I personally have freezes on my reports just to have one less thing to worry about. Yes, it is a hassle when I want to do something that requires me to lift a freeze, but it would be a much bigger hassle to have an account opened in my name.
File a Police Report
This probably won't help you get any of the money back, but it is something the police should be aware of, if nothing else to put out a warning that these sorts of scams are happening. I know my local police department occasionally sends emails detailing new scams that are being pulled, and knowing what the scammers are going to do is one way to protect others from falling for the scam.
This is also helpful to have on record if any sort of identity theft does happen in the future. If suddenly you find your family member's Social Security Number has been used to acquire debt, a police report may be a way to help prove that it wasn't your family member who made those charges.
Change Bank Accounts If Necessary
If there is any concern that your family member has given away bank account information, have all of their money transferred to new accounts. You will need to be sure that the information for any direct deposits or withdrawals is then transferred as well, but this is absolutely a worthwhile step to take.
Take Steps To Prevent This in the Future
While many people are receiving these scams through landline phones, if your family member is using a cell phone, I highly recommend installing a spam blocker, or at least something that will alert them that a call is potential spam.
If you are worried that your family member is falling prey to these scams due to age and mental capacity, you may want to have them evaluated and have someone get power of attorney or financial responsibility over them. That's a more drastic step (and not something inevitable for every older person), but it's something to keep in mind.
Remind them of the common tricks used by these scammers to get their money, but also be sure to let them know that these scams are getting increasingly more sophisticated, and people of all ages are falling for them. I think this is the most important part. Your family member will likely feel embarrassed or ashamed, and they really shouldn't. These scammers work long and hard on these tactics. Additionally, you don't want your family member to hide something like this from you in the future. Knowledge is power.