I genuinely don't know what to do anymore. My FIL, who we suspect may have some cognitive decline/early stage dementia, has not been diagnosed at this point with anything definitive. His doctor noticed some decline but thought it might be related to him not wearing his hearing aids. So for the most part, he is 'mentally healthy' legally.
That being said, we as a family have noticed a significant decline in his processing skills, decision making skills, and just general functioning ability.
The specific issue here lately is scams. The world of scamming has become so sophisticated it is easy for anyone to get taken in. But he is an especially good target. He can't hear without his hearing aids, refuses to wear them...and perhaps the worst problem...he is the true definition of a narcissist, and believes that scammers cannot outsmart him.
But he falls for EVERYTHING!! Amazon is going to charge his account for something....SIL must have set up an Amazon account in his name, everything stops while we find HIS account that was created years before SIL even lived there. With an expired credit card and exactly 2 app downloads in 2014. But he figured out it was a scam...not us telling him it was a scam at the initial phone call.
The latest...he got the call from the 'sheriff's department'. They are going to arrest him for Social Security fraud. "I can't understand the number, please write it down for me!" Cue my SIL losing her mind and telling him under no circumstances is he to return that call, it is a scam. "Well get me the # to the sheriff's department, I have to be sure".
We have had a gazillion conversations about not answering his phone, wearing his hearing aids, not calling the numbers on messages back, not clicking email or text links. But he either does everything we beg him not to do...or his favorite new engage the scammer, to tell them he knows they are scamming him. We have begged him not to talk to people, that some are so sophisticated all they need is his voice print saying a certain word to do what they need to do.
It does no good. He is above it. No one is able to get one over on him.
I don't know what to do anymore. Short of taking away his cell phone and house phone, and turning off his internet does anyone have any suggestions? Keeping in mind that this man is superior to everyone on the planet and no one can get the better of him. We are the 'children' and cannot possibly know what we are talking about. I have even explained that he is going to feel very embarrassed if he does get taken in by a scammer and that there is literally nothing we can do to fix it if it happens. "I'M NOT GOING TO GET SCAMMED!!!" some point your luck is going to run out, SIL isn't going to walk in the room in the middle of you trying to give someone your social security number over the phone and it's going to happen. But please, by all means sit there with your Sharpie and mark out the UPC codes on Tylenol so that it can't be traced back to you.
Sigh....this brick wall we keep banging our heads on hurts!!

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Thank god I started Mom, before her Dementia, in telling the telemarketers "my daughter handles things for me" and then hang up. That's when it was real people. The "do not call" list allows political and charities to call. Two things I want to block. And, I don't think the robo calls work with the list because the calls are random. Meaning, they start with 555-2000, then if not a good # move onto 555-2001 and so on. Lately I find its mostly robo calls. Seems like they know when an answering machine is involved. Like Alva I have a landline with an answering machine in my phone. I have call waiting so if I don't know the number, I don't answer. Not sure how this withs with a phone providers VM system.

I suggest the "Do Not Call" list just to see if it cuts down on actual people soliciting. Then tell Dad if the person talking to him is a recording, he needs to hang up because these type calls are scams. Anyone coming to your home is a scam. In my Township these people need a permit to solicit. Each person needs a permit. I had a guy showing me a pretty used permit for a group of them. Called the TS clerk and was told the permit lasts a month and each person needs one. As soon as I ask if they have a permit, they leave. Really, no one in this day and age should open their door to a stranger. Our elderly are too trusting.
Helpful Answer (1)

Do either of you belong to AARP?   Every so often it runs an article on scams either in its magazine or its newsletter.    They're slanted to invoke pity and sympathy for those who succumb to these frauds, so your father  might be able to relate to that presentation.

And typically the people have lost a lot of money, so there's definitely a downside that's emphasized.  

There might even be some articles on their website on scams.

I like to play games with some of the repeat ones, especially the ones who tell me my computer is "infected" and they need to have access to it to "clean it."   Sometimes I ask what kind of soap I should use to "clean" it. 

Other times I fake a dumb style voice and ask naively what a computer is.     There's a pause, in which I suppress laughter, before they continue with some inane approach.    I keep up the antique lifestyle until I either can't stop laughing or run out of things to say.

I remember once one of the scammers said something about e-mail and I pretended not to know what it is.   When he said something about communications, I told him I used carrier pigeons, and in fact, the pigeons were cooing and hungry so I needed to go feed them.
Helpful Answer (2)
pamzimmrrt Nov 2020
I do the same!
A time came when my Dad needed to have a day time caregiver and boy was she good at chasing away door to door salespeople, and listening within earshot if Dad was on the phone.

Eventually she knew when Dad was talking to relatives, and when Dad was talking to telemarketers. If it was a telemarketer she would ask Dad for the phone, and then start quizzing the person who was calling. Dad was glad she did, as he was always too polite to just hang-up :)

Thus, I would recommend that if the house phone rings or your Dad's cellphone [set the ringer louder] you listen in, and take the phone [if Dad allows you] to find out who he is talking to. Then tell Dad it was the wrong number.
Helpful Answer (2)

I have a landline because of a bundle package. I do not use my landline at all!

Anyone that knows me calls my cell. I turned the ringer off on the landline. It was nothing but solicitation or robocalls.

When mom lived here and my landline was functioning she would pitch a fit if I didn’t answer my phone.

I had caller ID and if I did not know the number I did not answer.

Mom was ‘old school’ saying that, “It could be an important call.” She loves to worry. Always has. I do not like to worry. She had enough anxiety for the two of us and then some.

Mom was only happy if she could convince someone to worry along with her and she became frustrated that I didn’t bite. That was her problem, not mine. Annoying? Yes, but it backfired because I became immune to her foolishness.

Mom had her own cell so she wasn’t missing any calls. Old people are often lonely too so they love to answer the phone.

You have legitimate reasons to be concerned. Scammers can wreck havoc.

You are absolutely right about not calling numbers back! There are scams that if you dial the number back you get charged by the minute during the conversation. It’s crazy how sophisticated some of these scammers are and people lose hundreds or thousands of dollars.

I don’t know what the best solution is for these situations because some elderly parents can be stubborn and feel that they know best. I think that I would turn the ringer on silent for the landline.

Good luck to you.
Helpful Answer (0)
Dosmo13 Nov 2020
I have a landline, and use it most of the time, however the provider offers a free service that screens all except personal calls (or so they say) and any calls from a Dr. or Medical facility. The service seems to be pretty much foolproof because my phone rings once, sometimes twice, then cuts off. If it rings 3 times or more, I answer and it is almost never a sales or phony scheme call. I get LOTS of 1 and 2 ring calls. But I never miss a really important call.
Sometimes, just out of curiosity, I answer after the first or second ring. I get calls telling me my request for a student loan has been accepted (I'm 80 yrs. old)... That the IRS is "freezing" my social security number...that I've been approved for cheap insurance on my car (I no longer own a car).
If your landline is "bundled" with TV or other service, this free service might be available to you. If available, could you "train" a parent to let the phone ring twice before answering?
Another tip. Set the phone to ring 8 times before the machine picks up. Most the calling software gives up after 4/5 rings.
Helpful Answer (1)
JoAnn29 Nov 2020
I have mine set for 3 or 4 rings. By that time there is usually a hang up. If it goes to VM, their system hangs up. I mostly get robo calls. Very very rarely a real person.
A thing that really works for me is the following message on answer machine (yes, I am a Luddite, land line with answer machine): "Hi, this is Alva. Zack and I don't answer the phone unless we know you. At the tone tell us who you are, and if we know you we will answer at once or get right back to you." The scammers are gone right away. Only a few bother with the whole robo thing of "call this number or we will swear out a warrant for your arrest".
Helpful Answer (3)

I hear you. In part I think it is because our parents will not hang up on a caller without engaging them in some way. Me, I screen all my calls, but if I pick up and realize it is a scam I hang up immediately.

If someone calls my house asking for Mrs. Tothill, I know it is a scam, and hang up, I do not say a word. Now if they pronounce Tothill correctly, I may ask who is calling. On occasion it is for Mum, who is the real Mrs. Tothill, but she does not live with me. In those cases I will screen to be certain who is calling and why and pass a message along to Mum, I rarely give out her phone number.

Back to parents and scammers. Luckily Dad never answers the phone. he lives with my brothers family. Dad subscribes to numerous conspiracy theory blogs and believes some incredible garbage, but he does not know how to use email, so he is relatively protected from scammers.

Mum loves to engage them on the phone, like you Dad. She also talks about how her friends got scammed, with glee. It is like she is proving that she is smarter than them, because she did not fall for the scam. Yet, she continues to talk to them. ARRGGHHH.

Unfortunately it is not just seniors who are targeted. New Canadians are targeted too. I regularly get calls in Chinese from scammers. I recently learned it is a tax scam. I just hang up, but a Mandarin speaking friend told me what its about.
Helpful Answer (3)

"Telling" him anything is a waste of time. He either won't believe you or won't remember. If telling him anything would work, it would have already worked.

Does anyone have durable PoA for him? If so, then I would strongly recommend getting him to his doc for a cognitive exam (with his hearing aids in). If the family is able to make a doc appointment using a therapeutic fib ("Medicare not requires an annual physical" or whatever you think will motivate him to go)...then an appropriate person goes with him and discretely passes the doc/staff a pre-written note outlining their concerns about his capabilities and hands it to them at the beginning of the appointment. I did this. They will accommodate you. Assuming he gets a diagnosis of some cognitive problems in his medical records, then the PoAs can legally begin to act on his behalf. Start with credit alert (LifeLock, etc). Securing all his financial and sensitive information (bank acct, check books, investments, SSN, passport, etc). You can give him a pre-paid credit card or move most of his cash into a different account that he can't easily access. Leave a minimal amount of money in a single account for him to use. If he lives in a house by himself, you shouldn't cut off his use of a phone. For now.

If no one has PoA for him and he is resistant to creating one, please prepare yourselves to stand by and watch the trainwreck. You can choose to pursue guardianship of him through the courts to control the situation, but I have read on this website that it costs upwards of $10K and lots of time, plus you will be having to prove him incompetent in front of a judge. If he has no PoA and the family doesn't go for guardianship, eventually he will get on the radar of APS and the county will pursue guardianship and the family loses all control over his medical decisions, living arrangement, and assets (until he passes).

So sorry for all this stress, above are your options short of someone living with him and watching him like a hawk (not do-able or recommended). I wish you success in getting ahead of him for his own protection.
Helpful Answer (4)

He does seem to respond initially when OTHER people tell him that it is a scam. He did end up calling the local sheriff's department and he told my SIL, in a very superior/condescending tone of voice, that the sheriff's department said it was a scam. He completely disregards anything we say as fact. Someone he considers 'authoritative' has to assure him and he will never admit we told him beforehand. Even still, when someone 'authoritative' does tell him, he forgets by the next time. This is not the first time he's received that message nor the first time he has called the sheriff for confirmation. Sigh... Someone needs to invent some kind of true scam blocker. I like the idea of trying to put together a list of scams that he has received, but I suspect that he would forget them even with them in front of him.
Scammers do constantly prey on seniors and I've advised him that when he engages them they love it. That they just sell his # to a gazillion other scammers who will start calling because they've got a 'live one on the line' kind of thing.
I think we'll start with the list, but the sad part is that it changes. The approach, the gimmick and even the phone #. I got 23 calls all with the same message last week - and every single one of the #s was different.
He doesn't answer his home phone so I think we are going to take that out of his room. But his cell phone and his computer are his lifeline to the outside world. He will often call people and say "Did you try to call me?" just to start a conversation. Part of his problem is that he is lonely - a major impact of his narcissism unfortunately. He has run everyone but family entirely out of his life and those of us that are still around are pretty much here out of a sense of duty.
I love the idea of having him help create a list, but unfortunately he would probably just say "why would I do that, if they are stupid enough to fall for it, it's their own fault". He literally lives in his own fantasy world. He has no understanding anymore of how the real world works. 
I do see major benefits of helping others see scams when they happen. The sad thing with FIL is if he does get's going to be our fault. Never mind all of the conversations, the proof, the begging and pleading, the explanations and real life's going to be our fault that he got scammed.
Helpful Answer (0)

Would a list of common scams help? You already know the newer Amazon Scam. I would simply tell him that NO ONE WILL EVER CALL from Social Security, the Sheriff or Medicare. Give him simple large print articles such as those put out by AARP. Collect with him the scam calls he gets and make a list, telling him that you and he will make a list for other Seniors which will save them. Tell him you are writing a paper on this and he can help you collect info, to talk with others where he is about this practice. There are many good online articles on current scams.
I honestly cannot think of anything to help here and am almost desperate to do so. They clean out literally 100s of thousands from our Seniors.
My bro was so well. He had a diagnosis of probable early Lewy's after a car accident, loss of taste, poor balance, but was meticulous in so much till the end. He had given me POA and Trustee of Trust and asked if I would do it because he knew what he was facing. It was so hard for him, as a bit of a "control issues guy". He died in May, but just months before I began to see the decline, and my first real clue was reaction to a scam call. He said "I know you told me that SS will never call ME, and if I have to call them I will wait an hour on the line, but I did get a call, and I know it is almost for sure a scam, but could you reassure me that my SS came this month." I knew then things were changing and he was aware they were, and it scared him. I always gave him monthly accounting of stuff in and out. This is SUCH a problem for our seniors and they seek them out like so much aging prey.
And PS you might consider starting a thread below of common scams that come our way. We would all benefit by having a list to give to our loved ones. The discussion thread starts after the Questions. At the bottom of "discussions" you will see a place to post. Just ask "What are some scams you are familiar with; I need a protection list." or some such. It would be a great benefit to others.
Helpful Answer (2)

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Ask a Question
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter