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Starting the Dialogue with your Aging Parents about Scams

July 8, 2013

I’ve pondered on today’s topic for the past few days. There were many ideas floating around in my head, but yesterday two events brought it all together. I was reading the latest AARP Bulletin in which there was an article entitle “Cause for Alarm” about scams being pulled on the elderly related to medical emergency devices.  The second event involved an MP3 download I was listening to with Dave Ramsey speaking about marketing and salesmanship.

Don’t get me wrong, medical alert devices are a wonderful item for seniors to have in their home. (I’ve posted their benefits previously and highly recommend their use.) The scam is about a caller claiming to be the representative of a company indicating that a device was ordered, but hasn’t been paid for  and now a lawsuit is going to ensue unless the senior citizen pays right away. Of course credit card, banking, and personal information are sought from the terrified senior and then the scammer is off and running while emptying bank accounts and charging things with the credit card info.

The second key to deciding what this post would be about occurred while I was listening to Dave Ramsey discuss the idea that sometimes marketers and salespeople are promoting a product to a non-prospect which leads to a waste of time and money I recognized that scammers don’t care about whether the caller on the other end of the line or the person opening their door is interested in anything. Everyone is a prospect to a scammer.  The scammer will do a quick evaluation of his/her prey and seek out obvious vulnerabilities. Once they recognize the vulnerable soft spot the sales pitch and the oily charm turns on.  If that doesn’t work scammers have been known to become insistent, rude, and even threatening in order to achieve their malicious intent.

OK, enough on how I came up with this post. Let’s get into the meat of it.

Starting the dialogue with your aging parents about any kind of scam is a subject to approach with care.

  • Remember that one of the developmental needs of the senior age group is to feel in control. If you come across acting like they can’t be trusted to make their own decisions your parents or clients will shut down on you immediately.
  • This is a topic for discussion after you’ve shown a legitimate interest in their lives, proven your advice is helpful, and established a strong level of trust that goes both ways.
  • If your parents or clients have been victimized by scammers make sure they hear you say, and can read from your body language, that you are there to help them get through it. Blaming, accusing, or making your parents or client feel stupid doesn’t undo the damage. It only alienates them from any good you might be able to do for them.
  • Encourage your parents or clients to follow their natural gut instincts. If someone calls or knocks on their door and they feel the least bit uncomfortable let your parents and clients know it is OK for them to end the conversation or close the door even if it appears rude. Scammers prey on the idea that most people will refrain from being rude.
  • Guilt, shame, and embarrassment are natural reactions if someone has been a victim of a scam. Let your parents and clients know that their safety and well-being is all you are concerned about. Remind them of some of the things you did growing up that made you feel less than stellar and encourage them to relive the support and love they gave to you during those times (if applicable). Let them know that you love and care for them the same way they did for you.
  • Assist your parents and clients by finding ways for it to be more difficult for them to be the victim of a scam.

We never know how a scammer is going to get the information they use to try to run the scam, but I’m going to give you a few things to think about to help secure more of the personal information that may help prevent making your aging parents or clients, and even you,  an easy target.

  • Every day we are asked for personal information. Be careful what is given. Just because it is on a form asking for a social security number doesn’t mean it should be given. Does your veterinarian really need that info or your birth date? Do prospective employers need it on the initial application (it is necessary once you’re hired, but unless you’re applying for a job where a background check is required it isn’t necessary on the preliminary application). Stop and think why the information is being requested. If it seems unnecessary don’t provide it.
  • When checking in for hospital or doctor appointments a patient is often asked  if their address and phone number are the same as the registrar states the info verbally. This is often done in a non-private area where it can be overheard by others. Hand the receptionist or registration clerk a piece of paper with the information written on it, but ask him/her not to speak it out loud.
  • Suggest that your parents not carry their social security card, Medicare card, birth certificate or other important papers with them unless they are needed for a doctor or hospital appointment. Obviously a picture ID is always a good idea to carry. So that Medicare and insurance cards aren’t forgotten at the time of a doctor’s appointment assist your aging parents or clients in setting up a system to take these along when they will be needed.
  • Banks, insurance companies, and other financial associated institutions cannot ask for a PIN number over the phone. Make sure your aging parents and elderly clients are aware of this.

One of the best ways to approach this subject is to make it a discussion during a very relaxed visit and do it as a round table so that each participant contributes ideas on how to prevent themselves from being the victim of a scam. This way your aging parents or elderly clients won’t feel singled out as being unable to manage their affairs. Set it up so that they are  helping you make a list for yourself and in the process building one for themselves. The discussion becomes a collaborative effort and everyone feels supported and part of the process.

These are just a few suggestions to get you thinking on this important topic. Have you had an experience with scammers (either yourself or your aging parents)? Do you and your aging parents or elderly clients have a plan in place to thwart the activities of unscrupulous scammers? If so I’d love for you to share in the comments.

Thank you for reading my blog. Your support and comments are very much appreciated. Let me know if you have any special topics you would like addressed in the blog.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2013 11:15 am

    I love Dave Ramsey! And funny enough, I just talked with my father yesterday about phone solicitations. He mentioned a call he got to support “area fire departments”. I explained the corporate set-up, and how the call-center company is probably not a non-profit, and will probably end up giving a very small percentage of what they “raise” to the fire departments. I suggested that anytime he has the urge to donate to a local charity, he place the call himself to the charity instead of responding to a phone solicitation. I made sure I was respectful and spoke with him, not at him. My dad is still “all there” and can certainly handle himself. The landscape is just changing so quickly. Thanks for these suggestions!

    • July 11, 2013 6:33 pm

      Thank you so much for your comment. You are so enlightened to be having these discussions with your dad and in such a calm and loving manner. Keep up the good work. I hope you’ll keep checking in on the blog.

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