How to Save Your Parents from Telephone and Mail Scams


How to Save Your Parents from Telephone and Mail Scams

40 to 50 billion dollars is lost every year to telephone, mail, and email scams. The elderly are prime targets of these crooks.

My father-in-law lost probably a half million over 18 years to fraud. In the end, even his rent check was sent to scams until he was broke with no food or rent money in Jan of 2015. When we began power of attorney and finally could look at his checking accounts, we were devastated at the losses. Long before you take over complete responsibility of your loved ones, you need to begin to oversee this huge problem. I hope the suggestions I am about to give will help you to save them from financial disaster.


When your parents get into their 70’s or 80’s depending on their mental sharpness is when you need to begin keeping a check on things. 


Talk with them casually about phone calls they may be receiving and how they react to these phone calls? Do they respond by telling you they believe them? Do they respond confidently that they know they are scam calls and they either hang up or tell them not to call back? How much money are they spending on charities, some of which may not be valid ones?  Casually try to get them to reveal their spending habits on these charities. It may be that they are handling their finances well or perhaps they are spending over their retired income budget significantly.  Try to be there once or twice a week when they get the mail, to see what kind of junk mail they are getting. Look at whether they are reading the junk mail or immediately throwing it away. You need to gently evaluate how they are doing mentally coping with bills.


Let’s say, you find they are spending too much on charities that they can’t afford but are willing to listen and work with you.


That is a good sign that they are still stable mentally.


  • Offer to help your parents budget their money, offer to help them with paying bills; offer to look up these charities and how valid they are.


  • If they are secretive, that is an issue and something to be alarmed about. If so, try to get a peak at their checking book to see if they are paying the bills and how much is going out for charity.


  • Help them find a valid charity and budget an acceptable amount to that charity. You might have a financial planner talk to them or their bank manager if they will accept their advice more readily. 


How to Save Your Parents from Telephone and Mail Scams? The next phase, is when your parents begin to forget bills, neglect financial obligations, and begin listening to these phone calls and opening these scam mail pieces. They may even be falling prey to a few but still have some reasoning power when you talk you them.


If their reasoning ability is still intact, try to convince them to allow you to assist them each month on bill paying. 


Help them to contact the phone company while you are present to block 800 numbers, 900 numbers, toll free numbers and international calls. Add them to the National Do Not Call List.  Make their phone number private if possible.


“The Do Not Call Registry accepts registrations from both cell phones and land lines. To register by telephone, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236). You must call from the phone number that you want to register. To register online (, you will have to respond to a confirmation email.”


If you are close enough and are available, arrive at their home when the mail comes. Assist in getting them to throw away the ads. Take the bag of ads out to the trash when you are there or take it with you. Look up these scams on your computer, print out the evidence they are scams, then go over this material with your loved one.  Monitor the check book. Are they recording all the money they are spending? Do their checkbook entries make sense? Do they even look at the actual bank statement?  Are bills scattered everywhere with no logic?  What is their attitude toward bill paying?  All these signs will give you input into the state of their mind and ability to reason. Look for late charges, bounced check charges, overdue bills, and charges that show that they are having problems mentally in this area.,


This is the time you need to talk to them about giving a family member power of attorney over their legal and medical decisions. Take them to visit an Elder law attorney at this point if possible. The wordage on these forms must be filled out properly or you will still have issues when trying to help them.


How to Save Your Parents from Telephone and Mail Scams ? Have discussions with your family member on who should take over as power of attorney. 


Have discussions on who should or can be the one to step in in case they get worse. Who is most suited mentally? Who is the most responsible and do they have time to help them? These are the hard questions and discussions that need to take place during this time period.  If you are not power of attorney and their mental state worsens, it will be difficult to get an attorney to legally get power of attorney to help them. It is your responsibility to give them as much input into these matters as they can do at this point. Let them be a part of the process if possible and a part of the solutions.


The critical phase is the next step often, the phase that can bankrupt your parent’s lives and create financial devastating problems for the rest of their lives and yours.

This is the phase where reason has been lost. They refuse to let you help them or anyone else either. They fight you on any steps to help them. Their reasoning ability is gone.


We went through this with his father for a number of years. It was not until he had given some international thieves all his savings, his rent check and grocery money for the month, that he allowed us to take over power of attorney. We had the help of his bank manager who had known him for 20 years and had watched this devastating process. At that point his father could still perform quite well at times, appearing as if he was more mentally functional than he was.  When this happened, we were in TN and he was living in CA still driving and living on his own.  In the two months before we could get him back to live with us this is what we did:

With his cooperation we changed his phone number; we blocked all the questionable calls like 800 numbers.  We had his grandson go to the post office and have his mail forwarded to us. We told him the police were taking his mail so that they could get the criminals and get his money returned. We did call the FBI and local police who stated that these bad guys used throw away phones. There were thousands of cases building up in their office. I was told it was almost impossible to catch these people period. We did file the report.  His grandson went daily to take away the bags of scam mail and the phone numbers he had written down to call them himself.  The bank went ahead and paid several checks for rent and utilities, even though he was in the negative. They were so wonderful to work with us on that. His dad made $5000 a month so they knew the money would come in the following month to make the checks good.  His bank manager took over the loan my father in law had taken out against the car to give the thieves almost $4000 more dollars. The loan was taken out with one of those pay day loan companies which charge 100 percent interest and legally can do so. We then made arrangements for his father to move out here with us. By that point, he was desperate and broke. We had to loan him money for groceries for a few weeks. His grandson took the checks, the checkbooks, the credit cards to his house. At that point, his father was writing bad checks and bouncing them all over town because he could not reason any more. He was given 20 dollars at a time for spending money.  This was the only way to save him financially at that point. At times we would admit losing all his money, then turn around and say the scams would make us all rich.

It was just days before his total financial loss that we finally convinced his doctor to send him for a dementia evaluation, the day long evaluation at a well known clinic.  She had fought us tooth and nail, saying he was fine. We wrote letters to the doctor explaining his financial losses and his lack of reasoning ability, but they just wouldn’t budge for weeks. His father could go in and play them.  When he was sent in for the complete evaluation, it was too late financially. He flunked most of the tests and we received a 20 page evaluation on his mental deterioration with a diagnosis of dementia in the severe state. His doctor faced with the results gave him advice to come live with us and that he should not continue driving. It was only then we were given any medical information on his health. It was only then that she was cooperative with us.  That was what we needed to go forward to help him.  You will need this evaluation to convince the DMV to take away their drivers license and for other doctors who see him later. On that note, when your parents are still functional, have them add you to their medical files so that their doctors can give you medical information on their health. Without that, you are given nothing to work with. Try to get them to let you go with them when visiting the doctors as well.

How to Save Your Parents from Telephone and Mail Scams?

Take the steps now when your loved ones are still mentally reasonable and cooperative. Taking these steps now may save them from total and complete financial disaster.

Kate Freer

Please visit my blog on herbs, adaptogen, and Ayurvedic herbs for health and longevity here. HERE

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