Baby Boomer Offers Real Life Advice to Protect Elderly Parents from Financial Abuse.
“That was such a stupid thing I did…I am so embarrassed.”
John Fread of Portland hears those words often from his 85 year old mother. She is referring to her shame over being financially exploited for nearly $90,000 last year. A retired dean of students, organized and savvy woman, she was excited at the offer of having her forty years in education documented in a book and through a video. The phone solicitation she received was intriguing to her and she believed the “nice people on the phone.” She gave her credit card information and allowed the company to come to her home to document her life.
“Who would think that people would take advantage of a sweet old woman?” Fread, 50, a marketing and communications executive, asks.
“This event has made me realize that all of us fifty something baby boomers need to be aware and help our parents be alerted to scams. Fread said that the people who came to his mother’s home to supposedly document her life in education gained access to her financial information and before anyone realized what was happening; her account information was being used illegally.
Last year, Department of Human Services reported 672 substantiated cases of financial exploitation in Oregon communities.
Fread has seen his mother’s medical condition deteriorate since this has happened. He says her stress from the incident has accelerated her Parkinson’s disease so that she is now requiring 24 hour nursing care.
While the Oregon Department of Justice has helped to return some of his mother’s funds, Fread believes that there are things that baby boomers can do to help protect their parents from scams.
Fread has these important tips for those in mid-life with aging parents:
- Have a conversation with your parent(s) about what to do if they get a phone call or a piece of mail that they have questions about. “They should not ever feel embarrassed to ask their kids for guidance and advice before they do something – the consequences can be so devastating if they don’t ask for some direction first,” Fread said. “But us kids should talk to our parents first and let them know it’s OK to ask…there are some bad people out there looking to commit fraud and we can help protect you. It’s OK to ask us for help. Have that conversation with them,” he said.
- Be aware of a “new best friend.”If suddenly there is someone new in your parent(s) life, check it out. Whether it is a caregiver, a house cleaner, a gardener, or someone else…even if it is someone on the phone, a salesperson. “My mother spoke of the ‘sweet young woman’ who befriended her on the phone. Ultimately, she was one of the people who exploited my mother. People can suddenly show up in your parents’ lives and take advantage of someone who is vulnerable. They can simply show up at the door,” Fread said.
- If you live nearby, visit your parents. If you don’t, find an advocate/friend you trust, who can.On these visits, look for any kind of changed behavior that may be a red flag. “This takes effort, time and commitment, but it’s never too early to make regular check-ins and to be an advocate before anything happens,” he said.
- Be prepared now.It is never too early to say to mom and dad “bad guys are out there always looking for ways to do bad things.” Suggest they need an advocate, maybe a child’s name on a bank statement to check on things, a financial advisor to help, but to have safeguards in place before things can happen.
- Know the resources available.The Department of Justice, the Oregon Long Term Care Ombudsman, and the Department of Human Services Adult Protective Services are just some of the many resources to help.
“I can’t help but think if we had some of these safeguards in place, we could have prevented this from happening to mom,” Fread said.
More information and resources:
Oregon Long Term Care Ombudsman website or 800-522-2602
Department of Human Services elder abuse and neglect website
Oregon Department of Justice website