My Mom Is a Scammer's Dream
"I’m increasingly concerned about my mother being taken advantage of in this world of cyber criminals and those ripping off the elderly. Mom is 80 and very, very trusting. She thinks that she is just like everyone else, but she is not. She believes everything.
Mom feels obligated to answer every phone call she gets. There are so many scams going on and I want to know what I can do to protect her. I am so worried that she’ll get duped.
I need ironclad solutions to protect my mother and her assets. She is not a rich lady, and she might need the money she has to care for herself in the future. I keep reading about people being taken advantage of and it keeps me awake at night. When I mention my concerns, Mom ignores me. She simply does not engage in conversation about scams. She thinks I worry needlessly.
What can I put in place to help protect my mother?"
There are indeed individuals in this world who prey on the vulnerable with phone scams. They engage in this activity all day long and are quite good at convincing people to release their money to them.
Your challenge is clearly your mother’s blissful ignorance about the risks she faces. Her unwillingness to listen to what you have to say is what concerns me the most. Listening to others is how most of us collect information that we then incorporate into our information data set. Because your mother refuses to engage, you may need a different approach.
The Federal Trade Commission has some very useful tips about phone scams on its website that everyone should read: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/phone-scams#how%20to%20recognize. If you cannot get your mother to talk about this, directing her to this webpage may or may not be enough.
Consider what does interest your mother. For instance, if she enjoys social lunches with her friends and traditional ladies magazines seek a similar type of magazine that has an article about scams and simply leave it at her house. Another tactic would be to drop in at one of your mother’s groups or lunches and bring up the subject of phone scams. Ask the group if anyone has had a suspicious call. That might be enough to get the ladies talking.
Another tactic is to be more direct with your mother. She may ignore you for a variety of reasons. She may have already been the victim of a scam, and doesn’t want to talk about it. The thought of being scammed and all the nuances of those calls may be too distressing to hear about. Tell your mother a personal story about a scam call you received and how it scared you. Suggest that your mother let all calls go to the answering machine unless she knows the caller. Many phones identify the caller on the screen. That will not provide perfect protection, as some scam calls “spoof” trusted numbers, but it’s something.
For your mother’s safety and for the protection of her assets, you could ask her to let you pay all the bills and manage her accounts with her just keeping a small amount of money, say $500, for discretionary spending. That way, if someone does talk her out of what she has the most they could get is that $500.
Another thing you can do with your mother’s permission is look into call-blocking or call-labeling services. Start by contacting your mother’s landline and/or cell carrier to see what options are available. Again, the Federal Trade Commission has information on how to pursue this type of protection. Use this internet address https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-block-unwanted-calls to read their recommendations.
You are being wise and proactive to recognize that your mother is vulnerable. Do persist with your attempts to educate and protect her. I hope she remains safe.
Family Caregiving Advice Column
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