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How to Protect Your Elderly Loved Ones from Scams?

Updated: Mar 19

Let me start by saying my mother is 83 now. Like many of us, this puts me in a position to be depended on by my mother, while still being somewhat depended on by my sons. This is not the empty nest I had imagined. It’s stressful and I feel pulled in many directions at times.

One of the main reasons this is particularly stressful is the prevalence of elder abuse and elder scams in our country. No matter how many times I tell my mom not to answer any calls or text messages from numbers she does not recognize, and not to click on basically ANYTHING, she still does.

On one such occasion, “DTE” called my mom. The caller ID said DTE and the representative knew the exact dollar amount she owed. This was very convincing. The gentleman on the phone told my mom that if she didn’t pay that amount right away, they would shut off her electricity immediately. This scared the heck out of her. The man then went on to tell my mom to go to the bank, pull out the $350 cash and take it to the mysterious box at the gas station down the street. And she did. As she left, they called her again and told her she didn’t pay enough. Then, it dawned on her that she may have made a mistake. She is on a fixed income and that $350 was meant to pay for the actual DTE bill which was still outstanding.

I asked her why she didn’t call me before she went to get the cash and she said she thought about it but was scared and just acted out of fear. I wish I could say this was the only time she didn’t reach out to me BEFORE she made a purchase or agreed to something that wasn’t in her best interest, but it isn’t. These people who scam the elderly are very smart and calculated. They know exactly how to get what they want.

Looking after my mom for all these years has ignited a passion in me to help those who cannot help themselves. An elderly person who recently lost their life partner, for example, needs someone to look after them and their best interest. They need to know there is someone to call if “DTE” calls them.

Much of this is avoidable if we trust our instincts, which my mom did not do, and call someone just to run it by them.

If you have an elder in your life remind them of the following:

  • Do not answer any call from any number you don't recognize. If the message is important they can leave you a voicemail message.

  • Save important contacts in your phone including family, doctors, friends and any other number you call regularly. This way you will not miss an important call.

  • Do NOT answer the door to any person you do not recognize. If you feel uncomfortable with an unexpected visitor, call family or the police department.

  • If you own a home, install a Ring Doorbell, or similar device, with a camera on the door so you can see who is at your door at all times.

  • You do not owe it to anybody to answer a call, text or door EVER.

Michigan has an Elder Abuse Task Force. The Task Force website is below with several local and national resources:

  • Area Agencies on Aging Association of Michigan:

We are here to help too, give us a call.

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