Survey: Americans Are Worried About Protecting Parents from Scams
Americans’ biggest concern when it comes to their aging parents’ finances is protecting them from scams, according to a new survey by financial safety service Carefull. That concern certainly is justified, considering the growing prevalence of scams.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers reported losing nearly $8.8 billion to fraud and scams in 2022—a 30% increase over 2021. Those hardest hit were older adults, who reported higher median losses than younger adults did. The median fraud loss per victim was $666 for adults ages 60 to 69, $1,000 for adults 70 to 79 and $1,674 for adults 80 and older versus $548 for adults 20 to 29.
Many of the Carefull survey respondents said their own parents have been targeted by scammers. To protect their parents, an overwhelming majority said they would use technology. Fortunately, there is safe money-monitoring technology that can help adult children keep tabs on their parents’ finances. Keep reading to learn more about the survey results and how to protect parents from scams and fraud.
Nearly 1 in 4 respondents said their biggest concern about their aging parents’ finances is that they will lose money to scams and fraud.
The survey found that 67% of respondents are worried that their parents will become victims of scams or fraud.
Nearly half (45%) of respondents said their parents have been targeted by scammers.
The survey found that 76% of respondents said they would use an app to protect their parents’ financial accounts against fraud and scams.
A majority of adults help aging parents with financial matters
The survey of 200 adults from across the U.S. found that more than half of respondents are helping aging parents with a range of financial matters. The most common tasks respondents said they help parents with are staying on top of bill payments and avoiding scams and fraud, followed by reviewing bank and credit card statements and estate planning.
Question:Do you currently help your parents with any of the following financial matters? (Respondents could select more than one answer.)
Avoiding scams and fraud—37%
Reviewing bank/credit card statements—30%
None of above—41%
Scams are a top concern of caregivers
When asked what their biggest concern about their aging parents’ finances was, nearly one in four respondents said they were afraid their parents would lose money to scams and fraud. This was by far the most prevalent concern.
After scams and fraud, the second-most common concern respondents had about their parents’ finances was that they won’t be able to afford long-term care. Running out of money in retirement was a close third, followed by the concern that parents will have trouble paying for medical care. Less than one-third of respondents said they weren’t worried about their parents’ finances.
Most are worried their parents will become scam victims
The survey found that 67% of respondents are very worried or somewhat worried that their parents will become victims of scams or fraud. More than a quarter (26%) said they are very worried that their parents will become scam or fraud victims, and 41% said they are somewhat worried.
About one-third said they are not worried at all, which is surprising considering how prevalent scams are. According to the FTC, there were 2.4 million fraud reports filed in 2022. The number of fraud reports filed with the FTC by adults 50 and older were higher than the number of reports filed by adults ages 20 to 49.
Nearly half say parents have been targeted by scammers
The survey found that 45% of respondents said their parents have been targeted by scammers. However, not all of the parents who were targeted lost money. According to the survey, 13% of respondents said their parents lost money to scammers, while 32% said their parents were targeted by scammers but didn’t lose money.
Not surprisingly, 13% of respondents said they didn’t know if their parents had been targeted by scammers. According to the FBI, older adults are less likely to report that they are victims of fraud because they don’t realize they’ve been scammed, are too embarrassed or don’t know how to report the crime.
Protecting parents from scams is a challenge
Survey respondents said their parents are more likely to reach out for help with identifying and avoiding scams than with other issues. Yet, respondents still said it’s a challenge to protect parents from scams. In fact, this was the most common obstacle they said they faced when helping parents with their finances.
Question: Do your parents reach out to you for help with any of the following?
Identifying and avoiding scams—19%
Using the computer or Internet—16%
Staying on top of bills—13%
Logging onto online accounts or remembering passwords—7%
All of the above—17%
None of the above—29%
How to protect parents from scams
If their parents were hacked or scammed, respondents were most likely to say that they would reach out to their parents’ bank for help, followed by law enforcement. An overwhelming majority (76%) of respondents said they would use an app to protect their parents’ financial account against fraud and scams if their parents agreed to it.
Using technology such as the Carefull financial safety service and taking these other steps can help you protect your parents from scams and fraud.
Take advantage of technology. Help your parents set up online access to all of their financial accounts if they haven’t already so that they can keep constant tabs on those accounts. Then, provide them with a second set of eyes on their accounts by helping them sign up for a service such as Carefull, which will monitor their bank, credit card and investment accounts 24/7 and alert them (and you, if your parents add you as a trusted contact) to unusual transactions, signs of fraud and money mistakes. Carefull also provides credit and identity monitoring and up to $1 million of identity theft insurance, at no additional charge.
Alert parents to common scams. Some of the most common scams include imposter scams where people claim to be with a known business or government agency, investment scams, online shopping scams, tech support scams and romance scams. However, because scammers are always coming up with new stories, you can help your parents avoid the latest schemes by warning them about the telltale signs of scams. Red flags include unsolicited calls, email and text messages requesting personal information or immediate payment; requests for a specific form of payment such as a wire transfer or gift card; calls, emails or text messages from government agencies (government agencies communicate by mail); offers of investments with high returns and no risk (all investments have some risk); and requests to access your computer remotely.
Help parents avoid scam calls. Older adults are more likely to lose money to scams that originate through phone calls. So tell your parents to let all calls go to voicemail. Scammers will typically hang up before the call goes to voicemail. If they do leave a message, warn your parents not to call the number they leave. Tell them to look up the number of the company or organization that supposedly is calling. Better yet, help them sign up for their wireless carrier’s spam call blocking service, or use Carefull’s spam call blocker feature.
Warn parents not to click on links in emails and text messages. Even if the email or message appears to come from a known source, warn them that clicking on links could take them to fake websites that will steal their personal information or account information. Clicking on attachments in emails could download viruses on their computer.
Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open with your parents. Let them know whenever you hear about new scams. And don’t ever blame them if they become victims of a scam or fraud. Instead, offer to help them file a report with local law enforcement, notify their bank or credit card company of any fraudulent activity and log onto IdentityTheft.gov to learn what steps to take to repair the damage.
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