It can be scary to hear stories on the news about seniors who've been scammed out of thousands of dollars from phone and internet fraudsters.

Whether it's someone pretending to be a grandkid who needs fast cash, an IRS phishing call, or an email that looks like it's from their bank or insurance company asking them to log in and update their information, some of these scams are sophisticated enough to fool even the most wary senior.

So how can you help protect your parents from scams?

  • Talk to them. When you see a news story about a scam, share it with them. This will help them be aware that scammers are out there, the tricks they use, and the information they need to keep safe. These conversations can also help them develop a language about internet and phone scams — and position you as someone they call BEFORE they give out personal information.
  • Be careful with your language. When you’re having conversations, make sure you’re clear with your parents that you don’t judge the people who get fooled by the scammers. Also be aware that they might take your concern the wrong way and think you’re judging them or that you think they can’t be trusted to manage their funds and make decisions. Having frequent conversations about these types of issues can help remove some of the stigma, but you will want to watch the words you use so that you don’t make anyone feel hurt or angry.
  • Give them a list of contacts. One of the tools scammers use to phish for personal information is a special phone number or email link. Give your parents a printout of the numbers they can call and the web links they should use to verify something is legitimate. That way, they have an easy place to look for the right people to talk to.
  • Encourage them to ask questions and do the math. Although internet and phone scams are common tactics used to target seniors, there are other ways seniors can be tricked out of their hard-earned money, such as being overcharged at the register or by a service provider. Remind your parents to check the amount on their receipt or invoice against what they were expecting to pay before they sign anything.
  • Use online resources. The Ohio attorney general's office has a site dedicated to helping seniors avoid scams. And you and your parents can keep this senior fraud protection kit handy to help keep their funds safe.

    It can be challenging to have these conversations, especially if your parents feel that you're overstepping or questioning their competence; however, they are important in keeping your parents safe and financially protected.