It is an all too familiar story. A family member discovers that mom or dad has given a bunch of money to a virtual stranger. Sometimes it is caught in the beginning stages and sometimes their money is already all gone. It can happen to anyone, even those who were cautious and thrifty all their lives.
If you want to learn some ways to prevent it before it happens, sign up here for my mailing list and I will email you a copy of “8 Ways to Prevent your Elderly Parents from Being Scammed”.
For the child of an elderly parent who is still living alone, here are some warning signs to watch for.
1. Increase in mail delivery to their address. Seniors who begin answering surveys and responding to sweepstakes notifications will rapidly be added to other lists as their name is sold from one scammer to another. I know of one case where the mail no longer fits in the mailbox so it has to be brought to the door in a box every day. Watch for piles of “junk” mail and a corresponding preoccupation with it.
2. Phone calls from new “friends” that absorb a lot of time. Some scammers take advantage of the elderly who live alone by talking to them several times a day, getting to know them, making them feel special and pretending to be their friend.
3. Changes in behavior. If your senior parent is suddenly too “busy” to visit or go out to eat when they used to love to do it, they may be waiting for a phone call or a promised “visit” from a scammer.
4. Unusually secretive or defensive attitudes. Scammers will sometimes urge your loved one “not to tell” their family, to “surprise” them with all the money that they are going to win. In addition, once some people realize that they have been played, they are ashamed and will go to great lengths to hide it from their family.
5. Financial clues. Maybe there is unusual activity in their bank account that they cannot explain. Or they stop paying their bills regularly. Or their valuables begin disappearing. Any of these can be a warning sign.
This FBI page explains why seniors are so often the target of fraud schemes.
If you suspect your loved one is participating, willingly or unwillingly, and you have a good relationship with them, talk to them about it. Ask questions and listen, and tell them calmly why you believe this person does not have their best interest at heart. If they are determined to ignore your advice and are still capable of running their own affairs, there may not be much you can do to stop them. But you can educate yourself and watch for further opportunities to be an influence.
Next post: the lengths to which the fraudsters will go to get senior’s money.