Protecting your Parents and the Elderly from Scams and Fraud

Heads up folks.  Who is calling your parents? Who is sending them mail or soliciting them?  Readers Digest? Publisher’s Clearing House?  Lillian Vernon? Fingerhut?  These organizations and others prey upon aging parents.  Some of the most common mail scams targeting seniors today are fake checks, phony sweepstakes, foreign lotteries, free prize or vacation scams, donation requests from charities or government agencies that don’t exist, get-rich chain letters, work-at-home schemes, inheritance and investment scams, and many more.  Look into this and you may be shocked.  A legitimate mail order company will stop sending stuff if you contact them and make a simple request to do so. The bad guys will not. What seems innocuous is not.  My sisters and I are unfortunately learning this.  If you live in the US – make sure to register them at: if you are in Canada go here: To take control of the mail sent contact the Direct Marketing Association at  This website will help you to stop some of the mail that you feel is inappropriate. Catalog Choice, a non-profit group that has helped 1.3 million people opt out of receiving 19 million pieces of junk mail. The Catalog Choice website streamlines the opt-out process so you don’t have to contact companies yourself. And the best part? It’s totally free.
Publishers Clearinghouse, which sells magazine subscriptions, videos, collectible figurines, sports memorabilia, coins, household and personal care items, along with books and tapes, has stated the number of respondents over the age of 65 who purchase its products is 30%, or twice the national average. In one year, more than 450 of these consumers, in West Virginia alone, ordered at least $2,500 worth of merchandise “each”, and ten of those spent over $10,000.
Of those consumers who had sent PCH more than $2,500 during 1997, 150 people sent approximately $570,326 during that single year. Of these, five purchased approximately $5,000 in merchandise, two spent more than $7,000, three spent more than $8,000, one spent more than $9,000, and one spent in excess of $12,000. The average age of the consumers on the list was 74. The average amount spent was $3,800.
One woman in her 70’s spent $400 to $500 a month over five years on products purchased from sweepstakes companies. A woman in her 80’s spent half of her Social Security check each month entering.
This is what I  would call senior abuse. I’ve heard about it and honestly did not think that this could occur to my own. Luckily from what my siblings have uncovered thus far is not devastating. Left unchecked it could be. Don’t wait until a medical event causes you to uncover these scams. Mind you, your parents will not like your intervention but seriously you do not have a choice! Trust me.
If you are a senior and reading this then hopefully it will help you see the wolf in sheep’s clothing.