Q: My widowed mother is still pretty independent, but I worry about her being vulnerable to scam artists who victimise the elderly. How can I protect her against this kind of abuse?
A: We’ve all heard the despicable horror stories. Help your mum learn to watch out for threats and recognise common types of fraud:
- Identity theft. Identifying numbers – credit card, driver’s license, telephone, bank account – can be stolen from a purse or wallet, taken from the mailbox or receipts in the trash, and even obtained over the phone on an invented pretext. If your mum uses a computer, install anti-malware software.
- Home-maintenance fraud. Beware of prepaid improvements or repair (siding, roofing, driveways, etc.) offered at greatly reduced prices. Once paid, the con artist disappears or uses inferior materials. Ask about affiliations with professional trade associations and consumer agencies. It’s best to avoid hiring workers who solicit door-to-door.
- Telemarketing and mail fraud. Glossy mail-order ads, and smooth-talking appeals over the phone or TV, market unneeded goods and services. Solicitors apply pressure to order immediately using a credit card because the offer is “limited.” Beware of requests for checking account numbers.
- Sweepstakes, gambling, and lotteries. Sweepstakes letters lure seniors with promises of “guaranteed prizes.” Marketers of gambling and lotteries target the elderly.
- Health and medical fraud. Simply put, never invest in health-care products or treatments without first consulting with a doctor or pharmacist.
Financial fraud. Living trust scams, investment fraud, pyramid schemes, phoney “associations,” and the “bank examiner scheme” are all commonly aimed at elderly people. Make sure your mum has a comprehensive financial plan for her personal investments, insurance and estate. A reputable financial planner can help her put her affairs in order. Then it should be easy and automatic to say no to all solicitations.
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