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Senior Scams are For Real

I have witnessed it with my eyes and ears – the phone calls, the emails and the postal service deliveries directed to those you love in packaging that resembles the real thing. These people are clever and sneaky. Since I never believed this was something that would happen in my world, I was not prepared to process and deal with the rathe these predators reeked on my mother.

You have heard about this on the news. (usually followed by eye rolls on my part.) I assumed it only happened to other people. Who would attempt to defraud an elderly person? It can happen to anyone. It can happen to your loved ones. Be prepared.

There are phone calls.

The phone calls. I can only assume that in addition to cell phones, landlines are fair game for this scam. We only have cell phones at this point, so that is our situation.

My mom is horrible with her cell phone. She can’t always locate it (or the charging cord that is always plugged into the wall). However, it is the last electronic device she still utilizes. When the moment strikes and she remembers how to use the icons, she goes through voice mail and missed calls. Then the panic sets in.

These offenders leave voice mails (or I am sure they also speak to people, just not this instance). The message sounds completely official but freakishly vague if you are paying attention. It starts with a scare tactic. “This is your last warning…” or “Your warranty has expired…” or “Your credit card has been compromised…” or “We are going to cut off your power…” I seriously listened to each one more than once. The words that follow do not matter. Panic initiated!

Having personally heard all of these, I could understand the panic. My heart started to race and I questioned everything I knew to be true. Did I forget a utility company? A credit card? Each one of these calls had my mother in a complete tizzy. Her panic feeds my calm and I find it best to remove myself to process it all alone.

I researched the numbers online and test called each one back from my phone. Each bogus. Obviously. I calmly explained to my mom, there are zero utilities in your name. No one can cut off anything. If your credit card was compromised, I would have been contacted, as the point of contact not you. (We long ago removed her phone number because she doesn’t use nor can she find her phone). Your warranty to what? When in your 78 years of life has the company called to alert you that a random warranty expired without written notification? And a car warranty – you no longer have a car.

Photo by Tara Winstead on Pexels.com

It goes on – there are bad people in this world! It is unreal to me. On each instance, it stayed with me for a couple days. I would fall asleep reviewing every account in my head. I can not imagine how long it stays with my mom.

What I do to help eliminate this situation:

  • Go through any phone messages from unknown/unidentified numbers.
  • Determine if they are legitimate.
  • Block the illegitimate numbers on her phone to eliminate further contact.
  • Delete the call from the phone. (My mom has a tendency to go back through old call logs and recreate her panic. I learned the hard way.)
  • Changed contact information at doctor’s offices, credit cards, etc to my number. (This was done with my mom’s involvement following one too many missed appointments or late payments.)

There are emails!

Emails can look amazingly legit, others are obvious scams. Depending on which device you use to read your email, and what application you use – the way the name of the sender displays may vary. A quick way to determine if it is fraudulent, locate the actual sender not just the displayed name. The sender name that shows can by the same name as one of your real accounts. For example, today I received one such email and it looked like it came from the vendor we use for web hosting. Everything spelled correctly, even mimicked the company font. However, hover to reveal the actual address from where the email originated. Immediately you will see if the email is legitimate. Another give away that it is not a legit company is misspellings in the text. And/or random capital letters or special characters throughout the email. If you have relatives in Nigeria, princes or just wealthy relatives, they do not need you to send them money or personal information in order for you to get an inheritance!

What I do to help eliminate this situation:

  • Go through emails from unknown people or companies with your relative.
  • Determine if they are legitimate.
  • Mark the email as Junk and delete the emails. Delete the Junk folder.
  • Set up filters to more easily eliminate these emails before they show in your relatives’ Inbox.

Let’s not forget postal mail!

Another way people try to scam the elderly, is all the mail the postman delivers. All of ours comes to one mailbox since we are all under the same roof. The process of sorting has morphed as time has passed and Alzheimer’s symptoms exaggerate. Originally anything addressed to my mom went to my mom. The next step, my mom would bring me any mail that needed to be paid or action. She would shred all other mail (or put it in an empty cereal box, inside a paper bag to eventually be shredded)((Seriously!)). When this process started resulting with due dates being missed because mail was being opened and lost in paper stacks upon stacks, I grabbed all mail and filtered appropriately. The filter has changed as needed.

There are national and international companies that I feel prey on the trusting, compassionate hearts of our generous seniors. There are also 100% legitimate organizations as well. Research is the only way to tell. My mom had previously committed to sponsoring families/orphans from multiple organizations. She continues to feel passionate about supporting them. After long conversations regarding this topic prior to her midrange cognitive decline, the ultimate decision we agreed upon was her support would continue. As long as the donations do not negatively impact her needs. My mom is happy that she is able to help. And I made peace with it myself, by deciding my mom donates out of the kindness of her heart. If any of the recipients of her generosity are not legitimate – that is between them and their God in the end.

What I do to help eliminate this mail scams:

  • Help your loved one process physical mail.
  • Discard (in whichever way is best for your situation) “junk” mail.
  • Manage legitimate mail with them as appropriate for your current stage.

An attack on the elderly seems inexcusable to me. Even with these protocols in place, something can slip through. I am always on alert.

To review there are different ways your parent or loved one faces scams:

  • Phone scams
  • Online scams (mocking real accounts)
  • Mail scams – email and paper mail

Help them decipher which offers are threats or are legitimate. It is very easy to become taken by these crooks. They intentionally cause panic or engage sympathetic or empathetic feelings. Speak with your loved one about scams before it happens to them. Help them to identify the steps to take prior to acting on a request, maybe they can get a second opinion FIRST. My mom is a well educated person and once panic sets in, reason is gone. Be aware!

Thank you for being here with me.

Marguerite

Whatever you’re doing today, do it with the confidence of a 4 year old in a Batman t-shirt.

Forever-Yoga.com

I am a daughter, a wife, a mom of three boys and a "mom" to boys from other mothers. I live for my family and work hard to set an example of a life in Christ. I have to remind myself that to enjoy the little things because the chaos can become overwhelming. I can't make up the things that happen in our world, so after much encouragement, I decided to write about them. Hopefully you will enjoy the stories and think, "Hmm, it's not just at my house!"

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