Frauds That Prey on the Vulnerable
Barely a week passes in this house without one of us picking up the phone to an automated call offering my parents a free medical alert system. Of course, it is not free, but rather a well-known fraud trying to get their credit card information either for a donation, shipping or some additional emergency service.
Luckily, because I live with my parents, who are in their 80s, I am not only their medical alert system (shout if you fall) but also their fraud alert
(hang up if they call). Last month, there was the guy who phoned saying my mother had made an appointment with a lawn service (she had not), asking for a prepayment. Then there was the large package that arrived a few days ago — some cleaning supplies my father bought that, unbeknown to him, did not cost $12 but rather $100, once the extra fees were added to what appeared to be a box of Clorox. “The moment I gave my credit card, they automatically added more products I didn’t want,” he told me in his defense.
My friend Karen’s biggest problem with her mother, who lives in an assisted living facility, is not her mind (she has early dementia) but rather her mail (60 solicitations a day).
“Many days she will tell me she is too busy doing her ‘work’ to go out to lunch with me,” said Karen, who discovered last year just how many thousands of dollars in checks her mother was writing to organizations claiming to protect Social Security, wildlife, children in need and the military (including one asking for funds to buy sewing kits for soldiers in Afghanistan). “She thinks she is paying her bills,” said Karen, adding that many of the letters are stamped “act now” or “overdue,” even though she obviously owes nothing to these charities, many of which are bogus.
Karen’s mother is now angry that her daughter has taken away her checkbook, since neither Karen nor the staff members have the time to sort through bags of mail each day. “Once you give money to one of these scams, the others seem to find you and the mail just increases,” said Karen, who now fears her mother is sending cash donations. But it was another incident — in which her mother nearly agreed to meet a man in a parking lot who claimed her grandson was in trouble and in need of $5,000 — that truly frightened my friend. (Fortunately, it was thwarted by her mother’s banker calling Karen with a head’s up that she had just requested a cashier’s check for an emergency.)