Financial scams target everyone and take multiple forms.
The Community Foundation’s newest initiative is directed at preventing financial scams.
A strange caller asking you for your Social Security number. A romantic partner controlling your finances. Caregivers exploiting vulnerable seniors. A family member making suspicious cash withdrawals. Predatory loans. Recently we have been warned in Reno about people posing as investigators claiming they need your bank account number to stop a scam.
A financial advisor involved with our Caregiver Support Initiative suggested the Community Foundation consider an initiative on preventing financial scams. This financial advisor witnessed different troubling incidents, including greedy family members who pressured their grandma who had dementia into signing a form she could not understand. Caring family members who intervened realized there was nothing they could do because the scammer had the proper paperwork.
The Preventing Financial Scams Initiative follows the same process as our earlier Youth Network Initiative and Caregiver Support Initiative. The first goal of an initiative is to convene our community to understand the issue and identify immediate action items. Instead of assuming the Community Foundation has the answers, we start by listening and learning from the community. We gather funders, professional advisors, nonprofits, and government agencies. Most importantly, the Community Foundation listens and learns from
the people who have been impacted by the issue. In 2019, the Community Foundation formed a Steering Committee to lead the Preventing Financial Scams Initiative. The Steering Committee’s first job was to design community convenings. Two convenings were held in the fall of 2019 and were branded as a “Dinner and Conversation” and “Breakfast and Conversation.”
Preventing Financial Scams
- 72 people attended the October 15 Dinner and Conversation
- 60 people attended the November 19 Breakfast and Conversation
- 90 vision statements were written
- 77 evaluations were completed
Convening Discussion Topics
- Robo Calls
- Identity Theft and Imposter Scams
- Elder Financial Abuse
- Problems with Family Members
- Problems with Caregivers
- Veterans, Housing, Employment, and Foster Care Scams
- Predatory Loans, Student Loans, and Legal Fraud
- Financial Control/Domestic Violence
- Fraudulent Debt Collectors
Vision Statements and Evaluation Results
Most participants wrote about education and awareness on financial scams, trust, decreasing the number of financial scams, and open communication on scams and financial abuse for their vision statements. Examples:
“Education of community awareness of elder abuse and financial exploitation similar to that of domestic violence. Meaningful law enforcement response.”
“A community that is broadly educated about existence of scams and other financial malpractices. A community that has a source to report and obtain intervention for elder abuse, etc.”
“To have an educational system for all Washoe citizens to prevent being a victim of financial scams.”
“The community would be a safer place to live when folks have the knowledge and are equipped with what they need to protect themselves from identity theft and scammers.”
Preventing Financial Scams
Looking Ahead – 2020 Action Items
Due to the early stage of the Preventing Financial Scams Initiative, there is no evaluation or measurement of its impact yet other than the convening results. However, the Steering Committee has developed 2020 action items based on the ideas community members shared at the 2019 convenings.
Coffee and Conversation
The Community Foundation will hold informal “Coffee and Conversation” events that are open to the public. People can ask questions, share suspicious materials they have received to alert others and verify if it’s a scam, provide tips on how they have stumped scammers and volunteer to become a buddy.
Printed/downloadable materials with tips on avoiding scams will be creating. Some materials may be specific to certain scams, like a printed card that can be kept next to your computer with cybersecurity tips, or a page with information on avoiding common phone scams or how to handle robo calls.
Monthly emails will be sent with fraud alerts. Community member tips, and a recap of the coffee and conversation events
Regular announcement on upcoming coffee and conversation events and the Community Foundation’s phone number and website for more information.
Volunteers can sign up to become a buddy and matched with someone else. Buddies can check in on a weekly basis with each other and call the other person to get their opinion on something suspicious.
Volunteer Community Educators and Senior Companionship
Through the convening process, we learned that seniors who are isolated are especially susceptible to scams. Instead of having the Community Foundation attempt to contact them and build their trust, we could train community volunteers who already have connections with seniors who are isolated. Volunteers can be trained to spot signs of financial abuse and give educational materials to seniors.