Protecting parents or loved ones with dementia from scammers can be especially challenging. Dementia impacts financial-decision making ability. So a scam your loved ones might easily have avoided years ago could ensnare them now because their judgment has been impacted. And they might easily be persuaded to hand over their life savings.
That’s why it’s important for caregivers to be alert to the threat scammers pose to their loved ones with dementia. Take steps to reduce their risk of becoming victims—and to limit the damage if they are scammed.
Alert them to scam red flags
Scammers are always coming up with new ploys to get people to part with their money, so it’s hard to stay on top of the latest cons. However, scams tend to have telltale signs. So if you alert your loved ones to scam red flags—such as requests to wire money, to buy prepaid cards to make payments or to share personal information to an unknown caller—it will make it easier for them to spot a con.
To help jog their memory every time they get an unsolicited call or email, here’s a list of scam red flags. You can print it out to hang up by the phone and computer.
[ See: Senior Scams and How to Avoid Them ]
Use a call blocking service
Reduce the number of spam calls your loved ones get by downloading a call-blocking app for their wireless phones. Major wireless carriers such as AT&T and Verizon offer their own apps with free and paid versions. There also are third-party call-blocking apps such as Hiya and Nomorobo.
The Federal Trade Commission does have a National Do Not Call Registry with which you could register your loved ones’ landline phone numbers. However, it will only stop legitimate telemarketers from calling. To prevent them from answering spam calls on their home phone, make a list of phone numbers of friends and family, and note on the list that they should let calls from all other numbers go to voicemail. Then you can check voicemail whenever you visit to see if there are any legitimate calls that need to be returned.
Monitor your parents’ finances
Keep tabs on your loved ones’ bank and credit card accounts for unusual transactions, such as wire transfers or gift card purchases (which are ways scammers ask for payments). You also should check their credit reports frequently to look for lines of credit that they didn’t open, which is a sign that their personal information was used to open accounts in their names.
You can get account monitoring as well as credit and identity monitoring all in one with the Carefull service. You’ll get alerts when Carefull spots something unusual. Then you can act quickly to close unauthorized accounts or reach out to your loved ones’ bank to cancel transactions if you have the legal right to act on your loved ones’ behalf as their power of attorney (see below). Plus, Careful provides up to $1 million in identity theft insurance coverage.
Replace credit and debit cards with a prepaid card
Limit the damage if your loved ones fall victims to a scam by replacing their debit and credit cards with a prepaid card with a low spending limit. That way, if they hand out their card information over the phone or via email or text, scammers can’t empty out their bank accounts or rack up massive charges on their credit cards.
Make sure you’re named power of attorney
If they haven't done so already, your loved ones should meet with an elder law or estate planning attorney to draft a power of attorney document that names you as their agent to make financial transactions and decisions for them. They must be competent to sign this document, so you don’t want to wait until their memory declines even further to take this step. Having this legal authority will allow you to interact with their financial institutions on their behalf if they become scam victims and need help repairing the damage.
You will also need to ensure that someone can be with your loved ones every day as their cognitive ability declines. They will become even more prone to scams, fraud and financial abuse and will need someone to constantly monitor them to protect their finances and well-being.
[ Keep Reading: How to Protect Your Parents’ Finances if They Have Alzheimer’s Disease ]