Sons and Daughters of Elderly Parents, You Need to Help
Article by Brian McMahon
I am often asked by nonprofit organizations that serve the elderly population to give presentations to their clients about how they can avoid falling for a telephone or email scam. However, because all the people in the audience are elderly, I am not too sure I am making a real difference. My sense is that as soon as they leave my presentation and find themselves in the “heat of the moment” on a call with a scammer, they are going to mistakenly trust the person on the other end of the line talking to them and completely “space” when it comes to remembering what I told them during the presentation.
That is the reason I’m posting this blog on LinkedIn. I am hoping to get my message to the audience that can do the most good – i.e. the sons and daughters of elderly parents. There are three simple things you can do:
- Give your elderly parent an easy way out of a call from a scammer. Tell your elderly parent that if they ever get a call from someone asking for money, or they get that “feeling in their gut,” to not think twice and give the person (read: scammer) your contact information and tell the person calling, to call you. My guess is you will never get a call; or if you do and it is legitimate, the person will not mind the inconvenience. You also need to convince your elderly parent to simply hang-up on the caller, even if mid-sentence. This is really hard for them to do because, arguably, they grew up in a more “polite” generation – which is exactly what the scammer is counting on.
- Encourage your elderly parent to talk to you if they ever fall for a scam. To do this you need to convince them, by being sincere, that you will not think they are not capable of taking care of themselves just because they fall for a scam. Explain to them that these scammers are way, way talented and that even people that are not “old” fall for the these tricks too. I am blown away by the fact that every time an elderly person shares with me that they have been scammed, that I am the only person they have ever told and that the reason they have not shared this fact with their family is because of the concern I mention above.
- Freeze your elderly parent’s credit report. Go online to each of the three major credit reporting agencies (i.e. Experian, Transunion and Equifax), with your elderly parent, and put a “freeze” on the release of their credit report. Although this won’t prevent a scammer from getting money if your elderly parent gives them their credit card number or bank account number, it will prevent the scammer from being able to open a new credit account using any personal information the scammer manages to get from your elderly parent. If a lender can’t pull a credit report, the lender won’t open a new account. All three credit reporting agencies offer this service for free. However, there is a charge, typically around $20.00, to have the freeze removed. Not only is this a small price to pay for this level of financial security, the chances of your elderly parent needing to “unfreeze” their credit report is likely pretty slim. In fact, I recommend every reader of this blog “freeze” their credit report. I have my credit report “frozen.” When I apply for credit, I ask the credit union/bank/credit card company what credit reporting agency they intend to use, and then I go on my smartphone and take the freeze off that credit reporting agency long enough to allow the lender to pull a credit report. Then I put the “freeze” right back on – usually while I’m sitting there waiting for the lender to decide whether to approve the extension of credit.
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