Are your parents being scammed?

My Mother in Law was ready to wire $1700 to her ‘grandson’ when he called in distress and ashamed to ask his parents for help. She had forgotten that he was on retreat, working off grid, no car- or even phone- access for a month. Somehow she still fell for this emotional appeal. Luckily the worker at Rite Aid- staffing the Western Union desk urged her to call us and make sure it was legitimate, even if it got our son in trouble.

Our parents may be even more vulnerable than we are to scammers. The FBI lists the following reasons why senior citizens are the most targeted demographic for scammers:

  • They’re financially stable with a nest egg, likely own their home and typically have good or excellent credit scores.
  • Growing up between the 1930’s and 1950’s, they were raised to be polite and trusting of others. This makes it hard for them to say “no” to con artists.
  • Senior citizens may not report the fraud because they’re ashamed, worried their relatives will think they need help or they just don’t know who to report it to.
  • Con artists count on their victims realizing they’ve been scammed weeks or months after it happens. With elder victims, it can be hard for them to remember what the scammer sounded or looked like, especially when so much time has passed.
  • They’re especially interested in buying products promising health benefits like improved cognitive function, anti-cancer properties, etc.

In addition to the reasons above, senior citizens are generally more likely to answer their phones than their children or grandchildren are — especially if they are alone often or live further away from their family and loved ones.

Are you helping aging parents in ways you didn’t previously? We are all vulnerable to ‘wishful thinking’ but maybe more so, our again parents. What are your tips for making sure your folks aren’t being taken advantage of?

In addition to watching out for any “too good to be true” offers your parents may think they’ve stumbled upon, keep an eye on their mail and emails for sweepstakes entries or offers for free vacations. Loneliness, yearn for excitement, even a lapse in judgement and these types of offers can look appealing.