When you were young, your parents did their very best to teach you to be aware of strangers and other dangers. Now as an adult, you need to reciprocate by teaching your parents the dangers and scams that they need to avoid. There are any number of people who prey on the elderly. In fact, it is estimated that one in 10 senior citizens report at least one form of mistreatment in the last year and seniors lose a collective $40 billion a year in telemarketing fraud. Crime against senior citizens is so pervasive that there are police bureaus aimed solely at protecting the elderly.

It can be challenging having a discussion with your parents about their susceptibility to elderly crime and fraud. It is best to have these conversations early, when your parents feel less vulnerable. It could be discussed at the same time you talk about Medicaid planning in New York. Here are a few scams and how best to avoid them.

Grandparent Scam

If you get a call from somebody claiming to be a grandkid in need of money to make bail, pay rent or other financial help, it is likely a scam. Often, the scammer will ask to have the money sent to Western Union. A scammer will place a call to an elderly person and say something similar to, “Hi Grandpa, do you know who this is?” If a name is guessed, the scammer has just established an identity without having to do any research.

This scam is becoming increasingly popular because social media sites are prevalent and carry a plethora of information about relatives. It is all too easy for a scammer to discover the names of a potential victim’s grandkids and other details.

If such a phone call happens, make no commitments, hang up and check out the story with other relatives.

Investment Scams

Whether it is a local person going house to house selling cheap plots of land, a well-organized pyramid scheme or a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” offered by a fellow churchgoer, best you beware.

Unfortunately, the elderly are ripe targets for such scams. For example, senior citizens were among many of the victims of the Bernie Madoff investment scheme. Because so many senior citizens are planning for their future and figuring out how to best manage their money after retirement, they are willing to invest in what they believe are safe opportunities.

If an investment sounds too good to be true, in all likelihood it is. Be wary of any investment that promises huge returns and only deal with reputable institutions.

Email Scams

At any given time, there are a variety of email scams circulating around cyberspace. Many email scams are from supposedly wealthy individuals who will give you a piece of their pie if you offer them a little help, monetary help that is.

Right now, there are over 400 Nigerian email scams. The stories and countries vary, but all give the empty promise of fortune and wealth. Unfortunately, you are the one who will wind up giving up your fortune and wealth.

Some seniors get tied up in such scams to the extent that they continue giving away money in hopes that the payout will eventually come. An enchanted victim may be on the verge of losing everything and cannot be convinced, even by family members, that they are being scammed.

Other scams through email include phishing scams. These types of emails look like they come from legitimate institutions and may lead you to a website which is also fake. For example, you might be lead to a fake banking site where bank account information, passwords and other personal data is asked for.

Email scams are very effective as hundreds of thousands of messages can be sent all at once. And even if only a few respond, the time and effort are plenty worthwhile. Since there are tools that can be used to cover the tracks of these scammers, it is far too difficult to catch the suspects, much less arrest them and get convictions.

The best way to avoid email scams is to never disclose personal information online unless you are sure they are a legitimate and trusted institution. Do your homework.

Repair Fraud

This is a scam that is too common among the elderly. This the type of fraud where senior citizens are scammed because of their lack of knowledge. For example, a plumber might install a $1,200 commercial garbage disposal when a $75 disposal would be more than sufficient, even if there was a need for a new disposal at all. Some senior citizens wind up buying new tires two or three times a year or pay for unnecessary car repairs. A neighbor might be charging a huge amount of money for doing nothing more than spending less than a half an hour mowing a lawn.

If a senior citizen is making poor choices when purchasing services, it makes sense to have a member of the family help out. It might even be necessary to give power of attorney to a son or daughter.

Funeral Fraud

While most funeral homes are reputable and do a wonderful job, there are still always a few scum waiting to take advantage of the elderly in their time of grief. Some funeral homes will cremate the deceased in an expensive casket to make more money. A cardboard casket for a cremation is sufficient. Unscrupulous funeral homes will add unnecessary changes to the bill without permission in hopes that the grieving family member will never notice.

It is far too difficult to think very clearly when you are in mourning. You should count on a more stoic family member to help make funeral arrangements and look over the bill.

Charity Scams

In the wake of a major disaster, you might get a phone call asking you for financial support. A caller says they represent a charity seeking funds to help in a disaster recovery, but the money will only go as far as the caller’s personal bank account. There are also charity scammers who will send emails asking for monetary donations.

If you feel the need to contribute to a disaster charity, never do so with somebody who calls you. Instead, seek the charity yourself after considerable study to determine legitimacy.

Don’t be embarrassed to talk about a suspected scam with a family member or a close friend, know that you are not alone. There are people who can help and doing nothing may only make it worse.