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Safeguarding Your Parent with Dementia from Scams

Chances are, at some point in your life, you’ve fallen for a scam of some sort, leaving you thinking “I know I shouldn’t have given out my ID and password,” or something similar. Older individuals, especially those challenged by dementia, are even more vulnerable. That’s why safeguarding your parent with dementia from scams is so important.  

Here are the current top three scams targeting older adults, identified by the Fraud Hotline U.S. Special Committee on Aging:

  1. Robocalls: These often take the form of investment “opportunities” that require one to “act fast”. Even if you have signed you parent up for the Do Not Call registry, they are still likely to receive some of these calls. Over half the victims are 70+ years old, according to a 2017 AARP survey. Thankfully, there’s help. Experts recommend signing up your parent with Nomorobo, a free service which blocks robocalls. If the perpetrator is on their list, they can set the calls to terminate after one ring.
  2. Lottery scams: How many times have you gotten calls stating that “You have won a free gift”? Most of us ignore them and block the number. For an older adult challenged by dementia, however, the decision process isn’t as clear. If they do respond, they will be asked to pay a “small fee” to continue to be in the running for the gift. Your loved one will be pestered by ongoing calls, all with the purpose of extorting more money from them. Here’s what experts recommend. When this happens, go to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) website and report the scam. Should the same scam come in the form of a prize in the mail, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service website.
  3. “IRS” calls: This scam has managed to hoodwink more folks than you’d probably guess. Your loved one will receive a recorded message telling them that they are in trouble with the IRS for back taxes and penalties. They even dangle the threat of arrest, if he or she doesn’t call a special number to make a payment. According to research, over 12,300 U.S. citizens ($64 million dollars lost) have fallen for this dangerous scam. You can report these criminals by filling out an IRS Impersonation Scam form which you can access here

Of course, these are not the only scams; new ones emerge almost every day. That’s why it’s a good idea to pre-program your parent’s phone to identify legitimate incoming callers. You can instruct them not to answer any call from a party they don’t recognize.

Every year scam criminals extort millions of dollars from unsuspecting seniors. By being proactive and informed, you can help keep your loved one (and yourself!) from becoming one of them.

Source for data cited in this blog: NextAvenue/What to Do if Your Parent Gets Scammed, written by Richard Eisenberg