How to Protect Parents From Scams
My mom recently got one of the "grandson-in-jail" scam calls. Shocking to me, she actually went to the store to buy thousands of dollars in the gift cards the scammer requested. Luckily, a sharp clerk alerted the authorities and mother was convinced of the scam before completing her purchase. How do I protect her going forward?
It is rare these days for our elderly citizens to be untouched by scams at some point in their later years. It is a very sad state of affairs, agreed, and all of us as adult children need to be on guard regardless of how sharp our parents are.
First we must realize that today's elderly did not grow up with the internet, robo-dialing, cell phones, or even television in their youth for some. It can be a daunting new world of technology for boomers and most definitely the WWII generation. Add to that the rapid pace of change. New scams are popping up every day. None of us are one hundred percent safe, as I know plenty of younger people who have downloaded ransomware.
Let's talk about how you can help your mother safely navigate her elder years while preserving her resources.
- The first thing you need to do is stay up-to-date, yourself, about the latest scams. To support your parent, you need to know what is going on out there to the best of your ability. So, keep yourself informed. The NCOA (National Council On Aging) has a great article listing the "Top 10 Financial Scams Targeting Seniors." I recommend reading that after you finish here.
- The next thing you need to do is share the new scams with your mother. Your goal is not to scare her, but to inform her. If she is a very trusting person and is easily swayed, print the article you read and provide it to her. It will give her the opportunity to study the scam at her leisure and wrap her mind around the new concept without you staring at her.
- Let your mother know that you are her partner and that you need to protect each other. Assure her you will share new information with her and ask her to do the same for you.
- Get your mother to promise that before she gives money to anyone outside of her usual bills that she discuss the matter with you.
- Ask her to avoid clicking any links in emails she finds suspicious. She should delete these emails immediately. And if she is savvy enough, you can show her how to unsubscribe from email lists and mark suspicious emails as "spam." You could even save suspicious emails of your own to show her what they look like and why they are a problem.
Should your mother be an individual who cannot grasp scams or is gullible beyond reason, more aggressive intervention is needed. She may be hesitant to this; however, I am certain she does not want to be embarrassed by being scammed. So offer to be her sounding board. Stress that we are all at risk and need to rely on each other. Do not try to scare her with the information; instead, show her that your family can stay safe simply by being informed and looking out for one another. Promise to call her when someone tries to scam you, and then do it. Once she sees that you have similar experiences to hers, her reluctance will likely dissipate.
I wish you the best.
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