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My Rant About Mom
Old 06-12-2016, 10:38 AM   #1
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My Rant About Mom

File this under the heading of "Elderly Vulnerability to Scams Swindles and Fraud"

I've been reading the current string on Financial Acuity declining after Age 60, and I am reminded of my 91 year old Mom's on going experience with phone and mail attempts to scam her. I can't figure out what to do about it. I wouldn't call this a decline in her financial savvy because she still pays her own bills, (on line no less), balances her checkbook and is very cautious with her spending. She is also a busy active person with plenty of friends and social engagements - bridge-scrabble-literary club- spiritual group, etc.

But I find that her lack of ability to immediately identify financial scams and what to do about it alarming. I don't see this as the onset of dementia, although I could be mistaken. She is perfectly capable of recognizing the weekly, sometimes daily calls from Microsoft personnel with foreign accents wanting access to her computer as scams and she hangs up without uttering anything.


A couple of months ago however she was contacted by someone and told that she had won $4.5 million dollars. Not surprisingly, these folks do not appear to be from this country. This person and his superior and his secretary then proceeded to call daily, sometimes multiple times wanting to arrange to send her the check. They were from the IRS, they were from the FTC. They were from the State Lottery Commission. You name it. For some reason she talked to them and that in a nutshell is the reason they kept calling. She gave them no account information or SS numbers, but I believe she did give them enough info that they have labelled her as a "likely candidate" a.k.a. patsy and continued to contact her. They call her "Miss Mary". She is on a first name basis with them. "Oh Michael called me again. He lives in Tennessee." They know all about me because she has told them about her smart daughter. They have advised her not to talk to me about the calls. They gave her their phone numbers, which actually work. She gave them my phone number and they have called me. They use a system which shows that the phone number is coming from a US area code - or it just shows up as "Cell Phone", when we know that these people are operating from outside the US. Through all of this I have told her to screen her calls and not respond if it isn't from her area code. If it's an important enough call the caller will leave a message. I've told her if she does inadvertently answer to just hang up but I can't get her to follow through. I've personally observed her answering these calls - while I chide her in the background to say nothing and just hang up. Nothing seems to work. She admitted that there is 1% of her mind that thinks it might be true, despite the fact that she entered no contests. This to me is the biggest indicator that her judgement is failing her in these instances. I get so exasperated that I have yelled at her, which is BAD, very BAD, I know. I have had her nephew, who is a police detective speak with her about how these scams work, how they intend to eventually get money out of her and what to do (hang up). Call blocking is apparently not an option with a Cable VOIP.

So a new chapter has now begun. She has in the past several weeks, received calls that she has won $100,000 from Publishers Clearing house. She has been told that Western Union has a check for her. And she called Western Union!!! Oh and she also just won a red car. And this past week she received a Letter from the Government of Portugal telling her that she has won several million dollars and must either present herself to a government office in Lisbon or she can have it direct deposited into her checking account. Clearly they have sold her name to other like scammers, or they have multiple operations going on at the same time. They've told her that they are on their way over to her house.

I don't know what to do at this point. I handle all of her investments and I monitor her checking and credit card accounts almost daily. I feel she would not actually give any money to anyone and she knows not to give out her account numbers or credit card #'s, but the calls do upset her, especially when they tell her they are on their way over to her home.

Has anyone had this experience and how have you handled it.
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Old 06-12-2016, 10:42 AM   #2
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You might find and read to her stories about how other people are being scammed. She'll begin to see the extent of the problem and the pattern of the scams.
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Old 06-12-2016, 10:44 AM   #3
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Would she be willing to change her phone number and only give it out to people she actually knows?
That might be the simplest solution.
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Old 06-12-2016, 10:48 AM   #4
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Would she be willing to change her phone number and only give it out to people she actually knows?
That might be the simplest solution.
I have thought about this, but she is very old fashioned about phone usage and phone etiquette. She would think people could not contact her. She finds it hard to be rude to people. But you are right it may come to that. I just think that if she consistently hung up for several weeks they would give up, but then this new round started this week and who knows how long this will go on.
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Old 06-12-2016, 10:49 AM   #5
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My late mother was especially vulnerable to heart breaking stories and requests for money from supposedly hard working, upright, polite students who were really among the con artists that target the elderly. In her case, she might have actually given them money because she wasn't very familiar with the criminal mindset (so she believed them).

My brothers told her about con artists but she still wasn't able to tell who was and who wasn't. Finally they told her to call them and get the "go ahead" before dealing with anyone she didn't know.

As far as I know, that worked with her. Getting her to call them was a delicate issue because she didn't like to be bossed around by her kids, but they appealed to her logical nature and she complied.
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Old 06-12-2016, 10:50 AM   #6
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You might find and read to her stories about how other people are being scammed. She'll begin to see the extent of the problem and the pattern of the scams.
My cousin, the police detective, came to her home and patiently explained to her how prevalent this is and how he has personally handled cases where the target has lost mucho dinero and how creatively they get it out of the target. He also told her that these people are not in the US and they will not arrive at her doorstep.
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Old 06-12-2016, 10:53 AM   #7
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Maybe she enjoys talking to them?

My MIL plays a game where she tries to keep the hustlers on the phone as long as possible. "Oh, a new credit card, that would be great. Could I spend the money on anything?" After talking for 10 minutes about all the great things she might buy, then "Because money has been a bit tight lately". After talking for 5 more minutes "My husband lost his job, will that be a problem?" 5 more minutes: "We're doing this bankruptcy thing, which has made things a lot better for our monthly payments" etc. It's not my idea of a fun hobby, but she likes it.
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Old 06-12-2016, 10:54 AM   #8
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Yeah, and ask if she has discussed these calls with her friends. They may be able to clue her in as they probably get them too.

Yeah too bad that she has talked with them, they now know they have a "fish on the line"

I just started getting the "you won a sweepstakes prize" thing a few weeks ago. I'm still waiting to receive the court summons from that IRS lawsuit I'm told has been filed.

Hope it all works out.
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Old 06-12-2016, 10:55 AM   #9
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My late mother was especially vulnerable to requests for money from supposedly hard working, upright, polite students who were really among the con artists that target the elderly.

My brothers told her about con artists but she still wasn't able to tell who was and who wasn't. Finally they told her to call them and get the "go ahead" before dealing with anyone she didn't know.

As far as I know, that worked with her. Getting her to call them was a delicate issue because she didn't like to be bossed around by her kids, but they appealed to her logical nature and she complied.

W2R

Oh yes that has also been a problem - the requests for money. Her name has been sold to so many organizations. She has a very hard time saying no to any request for $. She gives very small donations only, but that has just encouraged more begging letters. She has a begging letter bin that she places all of these requests in. We go through them together. I have also told her that not all charities are created equal and we review Charity Navigator to see what percentage of the funds go to the cause. What I find disturbing is how many letters she gets from Orphanages, Priests, and Nuns. She is a pretty devout catholic and feels obligated to give something. But once she gives to one Priest's cause, 5 more priests start mailing her requests. And if there is any sort of gift inside, even a personalized return label she absolutely must give them money.
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Old 06-12-2016, 10:56 AM   #10
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I would also vote for changing the phone number. My Mom who at 96 was sharp but she knew she was failing a little at finances had my Sister take over her finances (bill paying , investing , etc. ) . This worked well for my Mother and since she had little access to large amounts of money the scammers left her alone . I think that generation is too polite . They find it hard to just hang up so they listen to the pitch . I had to tell my Mom several times to just hang up . Luckily as she neared a hundred she could not hear very well so she did not hear what they said .She just listened and then said "good bye ".
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Old 06-12-2016, 10:57 AM   #11
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Maybe she enjoys talking to them?

My MIL plays a game where she tries to keep the hustlers on the phone as long as possible. "Oh, a new credit card, that would be great. Could I spend the money on anything?" After talking for 10 minutes about all the great things she might buy, then "Because money has been a bit tight lately". After talking for 5 more minutes "My husband lost his job, will that be a problem?" 5 more minutes: "We're doing this bankruptcy thing, which has made things a lot better for our monthly payments" etc. It's not my idea of a fun hobby, but she likes it.

LOL. If I thought my mother enjoyed it, I'd relax. But that isn't the case.
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Old 06-12-2016, 11:01 AM   #12
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My cousin, the police detective, came to her home and patiently explained to her how prevalent this is and how he has personally handled cases where the target has lost mucho dinero and how creatively they get it out of the target. He also told her that these people are not in the US and they will not arrive at her doorstep.
That's a good start. At all ages learning requires repetition.
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Old 06-12-2016, 11:05 AM   #13
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Would she be willing to change her phone number and only give it out to people she actually knows?
That might be the simplest solution.
I agree with this. She needs a new number. You might want to look into setting alerts on all her accounts that will contact you every time a transaction is in process and there is still time to stop it.
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Old 06-12-2016, 11:05 AM   #14
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Just change her phone number. She needs a method to eliminate the calls.
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Old 06-12-2016, 11:06 AM   #15
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Would any of the services in this Kiplinger article from January help?

Block that Pitch by Kaitlin Pitsker

Block Unwanted Sales Calls and Texts-Kiplinger
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Old 06-12-2016, 11:06 AM   #16
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I'm still waiting to receive the court summons from that IRS lawsuit I'm told has been filed.
Even though I'm only 68, and hopefully still reasonably skeptical and aware, I have almost been suckered in by some of these. Luckily F has rescued me but gosh, they sure are believable sometimes.
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Old 06-12-2016, 11:22 AM   #17
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I talked to one of these guys when I got Pops out of the nursing home in Detroit. Actually he did and he was sharp enough to have me talk to him.

Supposedly he won some "unknown amount" that could be anywhere from 50,000 to 5 million in the Irish Sweepstakes. He was a avid Michigan Lottery player so I asked when he bought the ticket. Three months ago. I thought it was hard to buy a ticket from the hospital and that's when I knew.
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Old 06-12-2016, 11:30 AM   #18
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Contact your states Dept of Aging. One thing that helped my mother in law was speaking with someone their own generation. Don't ask me why, I make a suggestion, nothing. Someone from her senior center says the same darn thing and a light bulb goes on.

Also they have resources to get those phone calls stopped or at least tracked.

Good luck
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My Rant About Mom
Old 06-12-2016, 11:42 AM   #19
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My Rant About Mom

Several neighbors are very happy with the free Nomorobo service mentioned in the Kiplinger article. Also, some phone and cable companies have a feature to block unwanted calls, which you access by logging in to the account. If you think you need to take a more active role in managing these calls, you can log in (with her password) and review call history and mark numbers to block. I personally ported my landline to Google Voice which offers spam blocking and other call screening/filtering features.
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Old 06-12-2016, 11:54 AM   #20
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I can only imagine your anguish.
We screen all our phone calls with the answering machine, and the thing will ring 6 times per day, often the same displayed number shows up some days 3x in row about 1 hour apart.

My mom had the donation letter issue, she couldn't recall she had already donated last month to X "charity".

Do you/siblings control the vast bulk of your Mom's money, if you can at least limit the risk to a few thousand dollars, vs ALL her money that would be a good preventative step.
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