How do we protect my grandfather from scams?

24 answers | Last updated: Mar 19, 2014
bluecal822 asked...
My grandfather, who has Moderate Alzheimer's is constantly giving money to fraud "charity" organizations. He has given thousands of dollars to these organizations over the past 3 years, and refuses to acknowledge that he is wasting his money. He continually gives money to organizations that he spend most of his adult life fighting against. He has even given $2000 to people in Jamaica who told him that he won a contest, and had no idea why that was wrong. We have gotten to the point where we go through his mail and papers when we can to get rid of them but I feel horrible when I do this. Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with this problem?
 

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Caring.com User - Joyce Simard
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A social worker and geriatric consultant who specializes in dementia care, Joyce Simard is based in Land O' Lakes, Florida, and in Prague. She...
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answered...

Your question about charity scams is one that unfortunately we hear often. The most efficient way to deal with this problem is to obtain power of attorney of his finances. See also:
How to Protect Older Family Members From Fraud

See all 850 questions about Alzheimer's and Other Dementias
Each state has different ways to do this so seek legal counsel so that you protect yourself. If he will let you pay bills, make sure you give your grandfather some money so that he still feels that he still has some independence. Do not be surprised if he becomes angry and accuse you of stealing his money. You could also try to get to the mail, perhaps get a post office box and then discuss each letter asking him for money so that you are still involving him in the decision. Your grandfathers physician or a trusted person such as a clergy person may be helpful to advise him to allow you to help him with finances

 

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SharonCCH answered...

OMG! My father is getting calls from Jamaica telling him that he was won 2 million dollars, a new BMW, etc. Just send them $1600 for a delivery fee. He says that he "knows" this is a scam, but he likes to play along with them. He thinks he has the upper hand. I honestly think that he is so lonely during the day that he welcomes the phone calls. He won't hang up because he is a "nice" guy! I work full time during the day so I can't intercept these calls. He did tell the guy to call back in the evening to speak with me which he did. I asked/told him to never call this number again, but it hasn't stopped. Short of disconnecting his phone, I don't know what to do.

 

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bluecal822 answered...

Unfortunately there is no way to stop these horrible Jamaican people. My family has contacted every level of government here, the Jamaican police and government and every level of the phone company to try and get them to stop calling. Basically, unless the Jamaican police does something, which is unlikely, you're best bet is to change your phone number.

 

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depotgrl answered...

My mother gave $8500 to those a******* in Jamaica, who ought to be killed slowly and painfully. When I found out and explained it to her 1000 times, she finally got it and then was crying all the time saying she should just kill herself. Now, however, she too says it was just a fun game and no harm was done. I have changed her phone number to new unlisted ones four times, because she keeps giving it out to people. The first time, she called "the nice man" in Jamaica who convinced her he was trying to get her money back for her. (I talked to him once, after she'd given him her bank account number and routing number, to tell him to wait to do anything until I could put more cash in the bank. He waited, luckily, and I closed the account — but he told me he was a "secret agent"; apparently she had believed that line.)

I got POA and now give her $200 a week, which disappears unaccounted for. (She's definitely not spending it on food and gas, and I just bought her new glasses and $350 worth of new clothes, which she hadn't bought herself in years.) Even though I tell her all the time not to fill out the forms or send money, she does it anyway. In a few days I'm closing on a two-family house I bought in her small economically depressed town so I can live upstairs from her, even though I never wanted to move back, having left for college and then moving away. Unfortunately I can't move in for a few months because of work issues, so she'll be able to keep filling out the forms, giving them the new address. If I try to intercept the mail she gets mad at me, though on occasion when visiting I've been able to intercept it after she puts it in the mailbox. She has become obsessed with the mail.

Isn't there a way to get the post office to STOP DELIVERING this stuff? Seems to me the U.S. government is complicit in a lot of seniors getting ripped off. An FBI agent I was talking to said he knows of an elderly couple who gave $200,000 to these con men, who for the record aren't very bright themselves.

 

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sledgar answered...

We fought the Jamaica folks (who ended up threatening my mom and her companion), called in the police, talked to the post office for over 2 years. Finally we got a PO Box for all mom's mail, were we sort it before giving it to her and take out all junk mail so she can't doesn't have all that reading/papers/clutter. We also changed her phone number-it was the only way we could get the Jamaica folks to stop calling her. and then I took away her checkbook. I sit with her each week and help her pay bills so feels in control of that and she has a debit card that she uses at the grocery store, etc. but the urge to "help" all the charities and political/quasi political organizations is so strong that doing all of this is the only way we could keep her from depleting her bank account or giving away all her bank information. I do have her power of attorney which made all of this much easier. Although these seem like terrible steps - we tried all sorts of things, blocking phone numbers, closing accounts, blocking international calls (Jamaica isn't considered to be international so that didn't help). There are just too many people who earn their living by preying on the elderly and apparantly no way to keep them away from our loved ones. GOOD LUCK TO YOU.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

With my 80 yold mom, I found that turning the ringers off in the morning when I leave for work and setting the answer machine to pick up on the first ring, plus the unlisted number stopped the scam call problems. I purchased a mailbox boss locking mailbox for our street-side mail delivery. I spoke to our local postmaster and asked that the carrier never hand mom any mail, just put it in the box. Mom meets the carrier often at the box, they give her one of the shopping catalogs and put the important mail in the box. They just tell her its not mail for her. I tell her the locking mailbox keeps the neighborhood kids from taking our mail.

 

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tklaiber answered...

I also have dealt with the same issue. As the disease worsens the solution will slowly surface. First we were able to weed thru mail when she was not looking and wrote each stating we had POA and to remove her from the lists. This did not always help.

We have taken them and said return to sender and we have stuffed their ads back in the envelope and mailed them back so they pay for the return. This was when and if we could get our hands on the items. Hundreds of them!

She promises $ to phone call ads as well and I have put her on a no call list on the computer. Slowly as she has become sadly worse it has become easier. As POA handling the issues are better.

At first I felt guilty about taking her mail - then I got furious with all these leaching for money who after I wrote to remove because of this illness continued to prey on her!

 

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The Practical Expert answered...

It isn't just Jamacian scams to worry about, plenty of them here at home and my Dad lost, I don't even know, how much money. To sum things up and add a few tips:

  1. Get on the no solicitation list

  2. Widowed women, keep the phnoe listing with husband's name or initial.

  3. Work with parent on not agreeing to anthing, learn to say that they want to talk it over with you first. Word quickly gets around that the senior is being supervised and isn't controlling the purse strings. My mother in-law was adapt at using this and found it great comfort so that she didn't have to say 'no'.

  4. POA is a must but in reality, POA doesn't prevent the senior the right to handle, give, pay or do what they want with their money. Only Conservatorship, obtained through your local Probate Court (easily done if Dr. or Psychologist recommend it, to do and 10 min in private court, and you can easily fill out the papers you get at the court for a small fee) would give you absolute control of finances and able to legally prosecute or go after any fraudulant financial scams. You should still have your parent involved in their own finances as much as possible, even with conservaorship.

  5. Give parent a prepaid credit card or set low limits on current ones. And keep two checking accounts - one for senior to use and one that you pay the bills out and savings.

  6. Try to agree on allowance for 'free' spending choice of theirs and they can't touch any money other than that.

  7. Address the reason why seniors are such easy targets. Lonliness and people who make them feel good or that they are doing good deeds. It is human contact for a population most people ignore. Getting out more, volunteering, spending more time with friends and family, offer to be part of a phone tree to check on more senior adults to see if OK - ends up filling need to give back and be needed, usually ends up in long talks too. Check out Seniors Helping Seniors. Try adult day care, etc. You get the drift. Create a more fulfilling life.

  8. As men get older, they seem to have the need to have a great deal of cash in their pocket. Issue then runs into not as much giving away money but using a $50 for a $5 and not getting the change back and losing the money. I started my Dad on agreeing to a certain amount of cash I gave him each week in smaller bills (he got to keep any money left over from last week which actually was an incentive for him to watch his money because he liked see his woad of bills grow) and keeping all receipts, so we could balance the checkbook and see why he went through hundreds of dollars a week. With receipts (he got better with time), we saw the pattern and make changes.

  9. Try planning an event that your parent would enjoy that would bring friends and family together and they would pay for it. Sitting down and planning the needs and costs into an easy reading plan = set date too, means the senior has a concrete and enjoyable reason to save their money. If you need something more immediate, let your parent actually donate to a local charity of their choice. Get your parent thinking of local with people they can talk to, who will thank her and where they can see their money actually accomplishing something. Have an understanding with the donation site that they will only accept a certain amount at any one time from your parent and so often. Everyone wins and the money is kept local and donated by a senior who feels they made a difference.

It isn't that our parents really want to squander their money but rather we need to have open communication with them and not become 'the enforcer' and find out what need is getting met by the spending behavior and then find more enjoyable and safer ways to meet it. Is it someone to talk to, is it feeling needed, is it the need to talk, is it the need to give or to feel appreciated, does it diminsh lonliness, does it give a thrill to have a package arrive, is it a way to make them feel wanted or 'treating' themselves, etc. That takes more effort from us, as caregivers, to come up with answers or alternatives than to just be 'the enforcer' but it gives more dignity and respect to the senior. How would you want your children to treat you?

 

Deb V answered...

Thankfully we never got involved with Jamaicans, but my mother was sending money to a number of fake charities claiming to help starving native Americans. A little internet research disclosed that a single guy runs about 5 of these "charities", which have a history of sending old textbooks and outdated seeds to Indian reservations while most of the money disappears into his own pockets. Mom took quite a while to believe me on this, but I have countered with a willingness to help them donate to known entities, such as our church's worldwide relief agency.

 

The Caregiver's Voice answered...

It seems many of us have stories of such fraudulent abuses of our loved ones.

I will only add that it takes patient and consistent effort to help your loved one "see the light" or at least trust what you're saying.

The alarming truth is that fraud occurs mostly by family members--this was my father's experience until I became his fiduciary. Sad...details in "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's/

 

The Caregiver's Voice answered...

It seems many of us have stories of such fraudulent abuses of our loved ones.

Aside from all the useful comments so far, I will only add that it takes patient and consistent effort to help your loved one "see the light" or at least trust what you're saying.

The alarming truth is that fraud occurs mostly by family members--this was my father's experience until I became his fiduciary. It is sad and the details are in "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's.

 

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tklaiber answered...

@ Caregivers Voice. I would encourage everyone to have their loved ones set up a trust while they are still able. The trust has been most helpful with me concerning finances. There is no room for fraud because the money is carefully monitored by the trust. The trust has helped me, as POA with many suggestions as they deal sadly a lot. They even have a program to pay her day to day bills such as utilities. I only had to say the word and that burden was lifted from my shoulders.

That said she still was abusing her allotted spending money on the scams and even legit non - profits begging for money daily.

 

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BradVeitch answered...

This is a hot issue for many of us caregivers. It is not easy! Be patient with your loved one, but protect their assets. Lots of good ideas already presented.

My mom has used a credit union for years and they have been my ally on several occasions. I do have a Durable Power of Attorney in place, but in CA Mom can revoke it with a signature. After seeing her deteriorate, they have really supported me in keeping it in place.

 

Maryland Mom answered...

Funny to find this after years of dealing with the Jamaicans -- before my dad died, my mom gave away almost $30,000 from what we can tell, to those scum of the earth. "Miss Phyllis" as they called her, was their humber one customer...the phone calls that we transferred to my house to try to trick them continued day and night for a year -- long after she was unable to contact them. They are evil personified. THey were not going to give up a good thing. I went so far as to tell them she was dead and that they had killed her. It was PURE HELL, and like other posters here, I was unable to get any govt. help here or in Jamaica, despite attempt after attempt. Mom finally ran out of money (that she sneaked out to seedy liquor stores to telegram over to Jamaica - OMG) -- nothing else would have stopped her. NOTHING. She was convinced it was real - has spent a lifetime waiting to hit the lottery and was certain they were her saviors. That was the beginning of the long road to deep, deep dementia. I am just now trying to figure out what's left of the money/reverse mortgage, etc.. Nothing remains to care for mom now that dad is gone. Practically nothing. Sickening. I hear the word Jamaica now and want to throw up.

 

Darkay answered...

I am not surprised by the frustration expressed in all the comments. Many of them tell the story of my brother, who lived in the next state from me. He sent over $25000 to various scams before the NH Elder Care found out. Local police told shopowners, post office, etc., not to sell money orders to him. His bank notified police, etc. He traveled to the next town to get MO to send out. In the last scam, he sent $5000 to Spain to win $5M. The state stepped in and declared him incompetent. One of the techniques we used was to have his mail delivered to another relative who lived nearby. She returned all the mail to the sender except the 1st class to cut down his temptation. As with other victims, phone calls from Jamaica, Costa Rica, Montreal, etc., posed real problems. The professional scoundrels knew how to circumvent our efforts. The police chief suggested that we ask for a courier from the scammers to deliver a prize so that he could be arrested, but that didn't work. He is now very happy in a AS living home, but his money is now being spent for his care.

We need an international law to prosecute these parasites.

 

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hoopMarcus answered...

It's not just foreigners or fly by night companies doing the scamming.Some one must intercept the mail. As Alzheimer's progresses the ability to reason gets lost before many other things sometimes. My mom could still cook and take her meds on her own back when she really was thinking that she was winning the publishing Clearing House millions. After all that is what it said in the letter.She could read the big letters YOU ARE THE NEXT MILLION DOLLAR WINNER but her eyes was too bad to realize that the small print had allot of "if"s in it. And her memory was too short to remember that she answered that same letter the week before ordering yet another $29.99 piece of crap. When I caught on she owed over $1000. Underneath her bed and the closet was full of this crap! Some were kinda nice but not nearly worth the money she had paid. I started intercepting her mail. I contacted the PCH office and notified them not to send her anymore because she has Alzheimer's and has lost the ability to reason. So then she started getting 2 of these letters each day! I walked in on an insurance salesman selling my Mom a hefty life insurance policy. She tired defending the nice man, who was also a preacher, when I caught his name in the Beneficiary box. He was trying to play it down by saying he just signed in the wrong place.If you just signed your name in the wrong box then why is it printed out so clearly? Someone must take POA over their legal issues. Sure you can do it with respect and leave them some dignity. You can not leave your doors unlocked now a days. Sorry that's just the way it is.

 

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Mady answered...

My mother was harrassed by a certain political party and by charities that had very high administration expenses so that the needy got very little. We put her phone on the Do Not Call list, but they still called. I could hear her saying, "I'm a widow and don't have much money." (pause) "Well, no I don't think I could give that much." (pause) "Well, ok, maybe I can send that." One time I heard her say "Well, ok, let me go get it," and I found her tryiing to give her credit card number. We eventually had to disconnect her phone. The mail deliveries dropped dramatically after that. It never occurred to me that Mother could be coerced into giving her money away in such quantities until she moved in with us, and I saw it first hand. I felt guilty censoring the mail and ultimately disconnecting her phone, but the more I learn about how vulnerable elderly people are, I know I did the right thing to protect her and the little bit of money she has, which would have to be used for a nursing home if anything ever happened to me.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

You can do more to stop these people calling from Jamaica than you think. First I would contact your State Attorney General's Office. I did this last week and they have a department dedicated specifically to scams such as those being talked about here. When they start getting these calls, change all of the telephone numbers and have them unlisted. We found out how all of this got started was by my mother filling out lottery cards, indicating that she may have won and returning them with her personal information on them. The AG's office called the bank, notified them that she was a victim of a scam, notified Western Union and other wiring agenices and she will be unable to wire money to them, we were told to contact the Postal Inspector and give them all of the lottery notifications that she is still receiving, as well as the AG's investigator calling her and talking to her about the scam. They will be a great resource for you. Unfortunately, I do think we'll have to start having her mail be sent to a PO box so we can stop her from filling out those cards and returning them. Also, the do not call list will not help the calls regarding the lottery scams, but changing the telephone number will. Also, make sure that you can monitor the telephone calls on line so if you notice they are receiving (or placing) calls to/from Jamaica, you can change the number again. The first line of defense of cutting off these scammers and keeping the elderly safe is the telephone and then their mail. They aren't making cold calls to these people. If you ask, you'll find out that they have received something in the mail, indicating they "may have" won something, and it asked for personal information, such as a telephone number and they have returned the card - that is how they start calling. After dealing with these calls for 6 months, talking to the AG and having the telephone numbers changed have finally stopped the calls. Let's hope my mother doesn't fill out any more cards with her telephone number on them. I hope this helps

 

CA-Claire answered...

While I can understand the frustration with the 'Jamaican' scam, please remember, these scammers are NOT supported by the Jamaican government. The Jamaican people, as a whole are a wonderful, warm, caring people.

In fact, I remember from a few years ago while travelling in Jamaica, their credit card fraud protection is much stronger than here in the US. The problem is, the credit card/banking laws only apply to where the secure server is that the credit card information is input to. So the scammers may have a 'Jamaican' area code on their phone, but it could be a cell phone or a VOIP phone (like Skype) used anywhere in the world!

On these lottery scams, the first letter tells them they have 'won' possibly several lotteries worth several million $$$$. They ask for anywhere from $20 to $500 to 'research' it so that the addressee will receive their rightful winnings. Once you return one of these with the requested $20, you get hundreds of them! What a scam.

 

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tiwula answered...

Over the past 15 months my mother has lost every dollar she had saved. This was not an insignificant amount. And it was not done without our best attempts to thwart the efforts of the perpetrators of the scams. We pretty much attempted everything listed in this blog short of taking control of the assets.

Please know that the ONLY way that you can protect the assets of your loved one once they have become a target is to separate them from their assets and take control of their assets.

If your aging loved-one has become involved with these scam artists, please consider the following:

  1. The perpetrators of the scams are smarter than you when it comes to their scams. They have far more experience. They have rigged the game in their favor. They are very fluid because they are dealing in deceit. I would assume that the ineffective scam artists wash out, leaving the best to find ways to get every last dollar your loved one has. The scam artists you're dealing with likely have seen every preventive measure you will try.
  2. You have to be right 100% of the time when you try to protect your loved one. The scam artists only have to be right occasionally to make it worth their time.
  3. They are persistent. They will not quit until they become convinced that there is no more money to take.
  4. They will obtain the trust of your loved one and they will dismantle the trust that your loved one has in you.
  5. They will quickly determine what buttons to push, be it political activism, charities, or lotteries. They will find what resonates and quickly adapt their message to that which resonates with your loved one.
  6. They have the resources to acquire leading-edge technology to support them in carrying out their scams.
  7. You'll never really know who you're dealing with or how many distinct groups you're dealing with.
  8. Attempting to reason with your loved one will not work.
  9. Your loved one will undermine your efforts to protect them and their assets.
  10. Local law enforcement and the FBI would like to help, but they really are quite limited in what they can do. Note that funding directed to the FBI dictates their priorities, and that funding is currently dedicated to terrorism, not scams against the elderly.
 

Dunzee answered...

Recently, my grandfather has fallen for the fake sweepstakes scam. At first, he thought it was real because he signed up for Publisher's Clearing House. You know, the legitimate organization that actually goes to houses and gives real checks? So I get suspicious. I watched Chris Hansen report about something similar, involving those money cards. So I go on Publisher's Clearing House website and it says "they will not call you if you have won." And that winning is entirely free. So I bring this up to him. He says he believes me but lo and behold he buys yet another money card for the f-ers. So I get mad. He leaves his phone to go do something one day and I grab his phone when they call. I ask "Is this Publisher's Clearing House?" It's a 985 number. You know, from Jamaica. So I go nuts. Eventually my grandfather gets back and I'm like "Is this the number that's been calling you. He confirms and I have to explain to him the area code is from Jamaica. He is dumbfounded. I literally used the internet to found this out with one google search. This was two months ago. This month I ask him if he wants to go eat out and he agrees, me expecting to pay. He tells me he received a 3500 dollar check in the mail. That all he had to do was cash it and send some money to another bank account for "taxes". I look this up too and tell him this check will undoubtedly bounce. "no! no! That's not it at all." Come to find out last week the check indeed bounced. WHAT A SHOCKER. Today, I'm sleeping at his house and I look at all the scam mail he has. I feel like a parent unable to trust their child. I have to tell him these are scams. I found them on his desk and shredded them all. In fact, he has a duplicate scam saying his deadline is on October 2, and the other is October 4. My mom says he's lost thousands to these scams. It really makes you hurt.

 

laralu answered...

My prayers are with you, as I have had to face some of these issues too. Here is what worked for me. First I had anonymous call blocking put on my Mom's phone. That stopped some of the calls because they had to identify themselves. Then I asked my Mom if I could get her an email account. I took all those fake charity letters she got, and sent them an email Remove my name from all your mailing and calling lists. Send me one email to acknowledge you will do this. Any further mail and calls will be considered harassment and will be referred to my solicitor for prosecution. (put down his name and address) Closed it with my Mom's name, address and phone. Amazing how well this worked! (I was told if you just mail their letters back to them, they are counted as a response and they will keep sending them)

 

CA-Claire answered...

When my Mother was in her last 2 years, she unfortunately responded to one of the letters with a check for the $29 requested "for research" into lottery winnings she may have. Shortly after that, we took away the checkbook from she and Dad. Dad did something similar with a "legitimate" sales letter for an alumni book that was being created for the high school he graduated from at 16. He was 91 at the time they called. When asked details about the book, he was unable to tell me when the book would actually be published and sent out. He had given them his Discover card account and paid $117 for a book that he might never see. We then changed the Discover account because we thought fraud had occurred. Turns out he had gotten a postcard about the alumni book in the mail, and had called the marketing firm himself. We did not contest the charge, since it couldn't be considered fraud, since he called the number himself.

Book finally came over 6 months later. No big deal - certainly not work $117. Dad now has a Credit Union Account with a limited amount of money in it. His main money is in a brokerage account and in a large bank unrelated to the credit union. We figure he can spend all the money he wants from the credit union account, and we'll refill it as necessary. In a year, he has only written 2 checks on it. One without our knowledge, the other with our knowledge. We'll keep that account with a small amount of money $1,000 for him to play with. He's almost at the point that he can hardly sign his name, so we don't have to worry too much.

 

 
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