Monday, April 14, 2014

Protecting your Parent or Loved One - Telephone Vulnerability

Happy Monday to all.  The past week has been very busy and I haven't had the opportunity to write as much as I would have liked.  I'm taking a bit of a divergence from the series on dementia support because I think it's important to get the word out.  Tomorrow I'm going to talk about Validation and Redirection but tonight let's discuss protecting your loved one from phone scams.

Issues with phone scams have become an increasing problem for our older adults.  This ranges from aggressive and unscrupulous sales practices to coercive and fraudulent calls that defraud older adults of money.  I discussed one of these in a blog posted in March where someone claiming to be a grandchild begs for money to get out of trouble. The money is sent OCONUS via Western Union and all the while the grandchild is safe at home.  Please warn your loved ones--these calls are ALWAYS bogus.

Another issue is related to aggressive sales people targeting older adults and calling up with a "great deal", which may include buying memberships to travel agencies, discount coupons, or anything else they think they can get away with.  They will call again and again in violation of the Do Not Call list.  The tactics are unscrupulous and ruthless.

The first question you may ask is, "How do they know how to target my mom or dad?".  It's actually quite easy.  Anyone can buy a mailing list that includes the individual's name, address, phone number, and age.  I purchased one of these lists in the past so that I could send out a mailing to older adults in San Diego to let them know that we are here.  Unfortunately, there are few restrictions on who may obtain a list and how it may be used.  While the purchaser may be required to sign a document that the list will only be used in certain ways, someone who is looking to defraud an older adult is going to ignore these restrictions.

So, what can you do to protect your loved one?  There are a number of things to try.

1. If the phone is a published number, you can try changing the number and making it an unpublished listing.  This will help but as soon as you sign up for anything that requires that you give a phone number, you are at risk of this new number getting back out in the public domain.

2. Sign up with a service like Nomorobo (  The acronym stands for No More Robocalls.  This type of service allows you to block the sales calls while still allowing calls in from doctors, family members, and friends.

3.  A third option is to have all incoming calls forwarded to a cell phone that is not in control of an older adult who may have cognitive impairment.  This will allow your loved one to still make outgoing calls without being targeted by unscrupulous people.

Education is critical but, when all else fails there are things you can do to protect yourself and your loved one. If you find yourself target you also have the ability to call the police or Adult Protective Services.

I hope you have a wonderful start to the week.  Many blessings to you!

Laura Barish