How My Elderly Dad Falls for Every Scam

If you recall from previous blogs, I moved my 87-year-old father to my home, 1,500 miles from his home so I could manage his life and care.

He is adapting well and enjoying the change after settling in and getting his nervous system acclimated to his new environs.

It wasn't until I moved him in that I started looking over his finances, bills, and accounts, that I realized, although he is sharp mentally in lots of respects, he was in no way equipped to deal with anything financial for the last several years. Just one hint of that was his not opening Medicaid or bank statements and letting them pile up.

That aside, he was also the easy target of scammers and solicitors. My husband repeatedly says it is a good thing he didn't get his savings taken away via a scam because of his lack of being cautious or of even knowing scams exist. (He has never used a computer in his life.)

It is true that thousands of senior citizens fall prey to those scams that the rest of us all laugh at when we receive them in our email inbox or receive a phone call that slips by the no-call list. They fall for the urgent need of money being wired to a desperate relative caught overseas with all of their money stolen, or they fall for the get-rich-quick schemes because they lack the skepticism or cynicism that most of us have.

Whoever is doing these types of scams, they bank on the fact that every once in a while, they will strike gold and get a confused senior or a naïve person.

Perhaps my dad was lonely, because he loved to answer his phone -- both his home line and his cell were used to talk to solicitors all day and night. Several won him over and he sent in "donations" to every questionable charity imaginable such as anything with a service man's title in it, anything with a firefighter's title in it, and anything with a policeman's title in it. He was also willing to give to every disease contribution imaginable. Some are reputable, others, not so much.

They in turn, sold his name and information to a mailing and calling list of other solicitors, so you can imagine the volume of mail and calls he received. Yes, he was an easy mark.

A lot of the junk mail is now being forwarded to us and it goes right into the trashcan.

His home line is disconnected now, much to the chagrin of countless scammers and solicitors, I am sure. But his cell number is still intact, and he gets incoming calls from states where he does not know a soul. He wants very much to answer these calls. And sometimes if I am not around to tell him not to, he'll take the call.

Our conversation after one of these incidents recently made me realize I am living a version of the movie "Nebraska," give or take a few facts. If you recall the plot, an addled older man decides he has won a one million dollar prize and goes to Nebraska to collect on it. His son, wanting to spend time with his dad but knowing it is a scam, takes him.

The following is our conversation after his cellphone rings and he announces it is from a state where he doesn't know anyone.

Me: Dad, don't answer calls from states where you don't know a soul! (as his cellphone rings)
Too late, he answers. After some conversation:
Dad: It's someone wanting to give me a 100 dollar Walmart gift card!
Me: Don't give them any information!
Dad to scammer: What do I have to do to claim the prize?
Me: Hang up Dad, you haven't won a Walmart gift card!
Dad (relunctantly hanging up): I just shopped there! Maybe they want to reward me.
Me: Millions of people just shopped there. Walmart is not calling them to reward them! Besides, you did not give Walmart your cell phone number when you made your purchase!
Dad (laughing): I guess you are right -- I am just an old fool. I am from the old school.

What he means by the old school is that he is too polite not to give any knucklehead calling him his listening ear and consideration. He just doesn't realize how rampant these scams are and how each time he responds, he puts a bigger target on his back.

Or perhaps he is just a big dreamer like the dad in Nebraska, thinking that next out-of-state call is going to be the jackpot, or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

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Earlier on Huff/Post50:

Gifts For Your Aging Parents