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South Texas Senior Care Blog

Relentless Predatory Assault on Seniors is a Big Problem We Must Combat

A couple of years ago, my wife and I invited my mother to come live with us. She is thankfully still very active both physically and cognitively but was living six hours away. My brother had just left that same area a year earlier so my mother was without close relatives nearby. My father passed away in 1999, so she had been living on her own for a while. 
After careful consideration and visiting us to thoroughly survey the landscape, she decided she would come live with us. It has truly been a great experience having her here with us. My teenage children have really gotten to know her, beyond only the holiday visits of which were previously familiar. She is an important part of our daily lives. When she begrudgingly moved into the digital world with a laptop, email and learning how to navigate the web, we (mostly our kids) taught her how to safely deal with the internet age.
I went in to speak to her one day and I noticed a puzzled and concerned look on her face. She had received a spam message stating she needed to pay the IRS today or they were coming to arrest her. Obviously, this was a scam, but with the official IRS logo on the email with a Washington, DC address, it looked intimidating to the uninitiated.  

I assured her this was some unscrupulous company attempting to take advantage of her and that the IRS does not conduct business like that. I asked her to let me know anytime she had a question about an email requesting her information or any payments of any kind so I could help her identify the validity of the messages. For the next few weeks, she called me into her room to check out emails from ‘banks, credit unions, charities and civic organizations’ which all are wolves in sheep’s clothing. She now just deletes them all and only opens emails from people she knows and expecting a correspondence from.

Unfortunately, it is not just the internet that sees easy marks in our senior population.
The rise of the telephone scam has reached epidemic proportions. From the aforementioned use of the IRS to robo-call with the same threats of immediate jail time to posing as a grandson or granddaughter in jail and needing the grandmother to bail them out. These scammers prey on the emotions of the elderly in an attempt to extort money from them regularly. My mother has not been immune to those calls either. She as inundated with calls insisting that she provide a credit card to ensure she would be helping a fellow church member or the homeless. Whatever will evoke an emotional response to attempt to get her to share her bank information; that is the length of the depravity these criminals will take. We install a free app on her phone called Mr. Number (it’s free) that notifies her if the person on the other end is a scammer, phisher or IRS con man.
As they say on infomercials, but wait, there’s more! The number of door to door salesmen who are specifically selling to the elder population has exploded since my mother has moved in. From chairlift installers and sitting shower salesmen to tree trimmers and roofers, the number of salespeople specifically asking for my mother (because we share the same address) is staggering. I realize there are legitimate companies out there who use door to door sales as their primary technique, but the fact they pulled information from a database to target the over 75 population is not by coincidence.
This constant assault on our senior population should have family members concerned and consumer protection agencies on alert. Countless millions of dollars have been lost to these predators. Please have a conversation with your senior loved one. They probably won’t bring it up to you first.

Here are a few common-sense steps to lessen your interaction with these criminals:

1)    Filter Your Email – Set some guidelines in your email so certain emails don’t make it to your inbox. – Target words like donate, jail, prison, arrest or other keywords meant to threaten or intimidate you

2)    Do not share your personal information online unless it is a verified and trusted website

3)    Use a phone filter (like the Mr. Number app) to screen your calls. It will let you know in most cases if the call is legitimate

4)    Don’t fill out random surveys or questionnaires online

5)    Get another set of eyes to review what you are receiving

6)    Do not answer the door if you do not have an appointment with someone you know

If you need assistance with any of these steps, family member and loved ones will be happy to help you. It is important that we all are vigilant in helping the senior population avoid these predatory practices and keep our loved ones safe and out of harm’s way.



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