Critter Corner: Protecting My Mother from Scams

Dear Angel,

I recently visited my 80-year old mother, who is in the early stages of dementia. I noticed boxes of items that were mailed to her, including tons of magazines about body building and deep sea fishing (both of which don’t interest her), and a pile of sweepstakes she entered. I would like to help educate her about scams, since I cannot be there with her to stop her from sending money to these people. Do you know about the major scams targeting seniors today and how I can help my mother?


Don Targett-Mymomm


Dear Don,

Sadly, there are unscrupulous criminals out there that prey on seniors such as your mother. According to a survey on elder fraud from Investor Protection Trust, 20% of unsuspecting retirees become victims of financial fraud. The same study reveals that one in every five Americans over 65, or about 7.5 million people, has lost money through financial fraud.

As we age, our ability to discern the credible from the not-so-credible decreases. And retirees in the early stages of diseases such as Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, such as your mother, are more prone to fall for fraudulent phone, mail, or email-based money-grabbing schemes.

As a rule of thumb, if it seems too good to be true, it’s almost certainly a scam. With that in mind, since you can’t be around all the time, gently remind your mother not to sign up for sweepstakes, travel giveaways, or suspicious free gift offers. According to the National Consumers League fraud center, once the scam bait has been taken, her contact information may end up on a “suckers list,” where it’s collected and then sold to outside parties. From that time onward, she will likely find herself receiving a plethora of fake mailings and phone calls.

The following are some common scams that target seniors:

  • Telemarketing or mail fraud: Dishonest scammers use the phone to sell seniors goods that either never arrive or are worthless junk. In addition, they often conduct investment and credit card fraud, lottery scams, and identity theft. Telemarketers take in an estimated $40 billion each year, bilking one in six American consumers. AARP claims that about 80% of them are 50 or older.
  • Health Care/Medicare/Health Insurance Fraud: In these types of scams, perpetrators may pose as a Medicare representative to get older people to give them their personal information, or they will provide bogus services for elderly people at makeshift mobile clinics, then use the personal information they provide to bill Medicare and pocket the money.
  • Grandparent Scam: The criminals often do intensive research on the potential victim’s family, so their story may sound credible. If this happens to your mom, tell her to ask the person if you can call them back later and immediately check the facts with your family. Suggest to your mother that she should NEVER give money to anyone without verifying their identity.
  • Using Fraudulent Legal Documents: Many scammers cloak their actions in legal authority, procuring a Power of Attorney or Will or other legal document giving them access to a senior’s property. They get seniors to sign these documents by lying, intimidation, or threatening of the seniors. To ensure that this does not happen, make sure that your documents are done in a safe and ethical manner by a Certified Elder Law Attorney, such as my owner, Evan Farr.

Of course, there are plenty of other scams out there, including phony charities asking for donations, advance-fee loans, fake checks, fake lottery scans, and identity theft. Read the FBI Common Fraud Schemes Web page  or the Better Business Bureau Scam Stopper Web page for more details and be sure to report any internet scams to the FBI and all scams to the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Hope this is helpful!



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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.