Elderly Mom living alone and has fallen for the "Grandparent" and "Medicare" scams. Any advice?

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Am searching for advice. Don't know if it is time to place my elderly mother into assisted living. She has been living independently and does not want to leave her "home" and I understand that, but I am working full-time and cannot be with her 24 hours a day. She fell for the Grandparent scam last week and the Medicare (we need your checking account number to send you money) scam, approximately a year ago. I headed off the Medicare scam by getting to the bank in time to cancel checking account, however she wired $1,800 to Lima Peru, where supposedly one of her granddaughter was in trouble, without calling me or my niece's mother to verify...she got in the car, drove to the bank, drove to grocery store and wired the money without consulting anyone. She has other medical issues that so far have not made it appear necessary for her to need 24 hour care in regard to her health. Just would like to hear some advice as to what to do about this without trying to declare her incompetent, which she really is not. Want to help her keep her dignity, but also keep her safe. Please help!

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I agree that if this impulsiveness is new behavior it's time for a neurological checkup. Some types of dementia first present as poor decision making.

Even if she's always been this impulsive, you may be able to curtail some of her "decisions" if you can control her credit cards and bank account.

What I'm thinking is that if she's competent, she may regret her actions and understand that she needs some help with money management. If she doesn't understand the risks she took, then she needs a neurological workup.

Good luck. It's always tough to take away independence and adult children shouldn't be in too big of a hurry to do that. Still, where there are signs of cognitive deterioration, sometimes intervention is necessary.

Carol
A little tip for the future. I have bought my mother-in-law a cell phone. Then I went to Google voice and set up a number to be given out (yes, this is the number I tell my mother-in-law is her cell number). With Google voice I set it up to ring me 1st and I screen her calls.

If it is a friend's number I forward the call to her and she thinks it rings straight to her. An unknown number I answer and take care of it. Then if it is a sales call or a scam I then that number to a block list on Google.

It sounds like I am policing everything she does but I was in a predicament before like janelouise and had an elderly family member fall for some of these scams. Once wired the money is gone.
Call the FBI and report the entire transaction, let hem handle it.
If your mom can get in the car, drive to the bank, withdraw money and then drive to the grocery store to have it wired to Lima, Peru it doesn't sound like she's incompetent. If she lived in an assisted living facility she would still be vulnerable to scams. If she doesn't have dementia or Alzheimer's sit down with her and have a talk with her. Tell her she cannot send off money to anyone for any reason. I'm assuming by now she knows that her granddaughter was not actually in any trouble in Peru. Do you have POA? If not, get it ASAP. Get on your mom's bank account. Make your signature a condition if she wants to write a check.

However if you think she needs more supervision an assisted living facility would provide it, provided you could get her to go along with it. Get her an unlisted phone number when/if she moves.

My dad was very competent and was scammed out of $60,000. We could never pin down exactly where it went as he refused to discuss it, we just knew it was gone. I know he was scammed out of that money. When he lived with me he'd answer the phone and I'd hear him begin to give out his private information and I'd leap up from whatever I was doing and snatch the phone out of his hand, demanding to know with whom I was speaking. But unless I was home 24/7 I was unable to keep him from the phone all the time. And I had to put up a NO SOLICITORS sign at the front door.

Our elderly parents scrimp and save for years and years and then they hand their money over to these jackals. I don't get it. I begged my dad to not answer the phone but if it rang he would answer it. If I wasn't going to be home I'd let it go dead and made sure that he had his cell phone with him in the house. And if I was doing something at home where I couldn't get the phone if it rang I would let it go dead then too.

But in assisted living what's to stop your mom from doing the same thing again? If she needs more care AL would be perfect but don't move her to keep her away from scam artists. They'll find her in assisted living.

There's a "No Call" list you can find with one stroke on the internet, you can place your mom on that but it's not very effective. However, every little thing helps.

How about taking your mom's check book away from her? Taking over her finances yourself? Don't do is as punishment but in the spirit of wanting to help make her life easier. Someone needs to tighten up her finances so she won't be able to wire money to God-only-knows-where. And now that she has wired that money she's on some list somewhere and whoever got her to do that may come at her again. They now know she's vulnerable.

Do some research on assisted living and then have a talk with your mom. See how she feels about it. She may dig in her heels and refuse in which case you can only take precautions against her getting into trouble with scams again. Maybe think about hiring a caregiver who can watch out for her and help her a few hours a day.
I live with my 94-year-old grandmother and we’ve had some very close calls with scams and ripoff artists! Even though I had POA for all financial and medical purposes, but I finally had to take away her ability to initiate any financial transactions. When I first started taking care of her finances back in 2008, she just added me to her checking, savings and investment accounts. Last year, I finally closed her old checking and savings and opened two new accounts. My name is listed on the first line with “Fiduciary for [her name]” below it. I’m the only person who can access the accounts and make any transactions, but I also had my attorney create a document that defines the ‘fiduciary’ relationship. I had to do something similar to receive VA benefits on behalf of my great-aunt who had Alzheimer’s and was in a nursing home.

Nanny (my grandma) has fallen prey to a couple of Medicare-related scams. One was authorizing a company to send their brand of blood glucose monitor, test strips and other diabetic testing supplies. They billed Medicare at a ridiculous rate (more than double what we had been paying for OneTouch-brand supplies) and they sent them automatically every 10 weeks or so for almost a year. I had to raise H3LL with Medicare for almost six months before they finally launched a fraud investigation. Ultimately, they back-charged over $4,000 to the company and they went out of business a few months later!

She gave them her Medicare number when the originally called and that’s what started it all. She also gave it to another person who called claiming to be from her doctor’s office. They tried to use the use the Medicare ID number as a SSN to open credit card and loan accounts! Luckily, her Medicare ID is my deceased grandfather’s SSN and not hers. His credit bureau and SSN both have a death flag and at least one person who tried using his SSN was arrested in Florida (we’re in Georgia).

Her ID, Medicare card, Secondary Insurance card, Social Security Card and any other identifying info is now kept in a lockbox that only I can open!

I have a caller ID display that I keep on in my pocket or on my desk when I’m at home so I can monitor all incoming calls and intercept any suspicious or ‘unknown’ callers. Someone is always with her whenever I’m not home, but I still forward all incoming calls to my cell phone so there’s no chance of another scammer making contact with her!

We live in a semi-rural gated community, but every once in a while someone manages to sneak in and they know which homes belong to elderly people. It pisses me off that there’s enough info in public records for them to figure out where to strike! The last time one showed up here, I called the armed security guard on duty and made the jerk stay here until he arrived to get him, then he delivered him to the sheriff deputy waiting at the gate house! (I won’t say exactly how I ‘made’ him stay put, but we all have guns here in North Georgia).
Controlling the telephone access is a great idea....as well as the checking account and other financial vehicles she may have. Unfortunately, the scam artists seem to know just what to say. Good advice from many respondents.
janelouise - If you're not already POA, get that done ASAP. Then, close her bank account and open a new one and do not give your mom access to it. Give her some cash each week and a prepaid card (load it periodically with only the amount you wouldn't be upset about her throwing away). That way she can go about her business wasting (small amounts of) money on whatever suits her while protecting her real assets. $1800 to Peru! It would take me a long time to get over the anger from that.
If your mom isn't making bad decisions at home (using the stove, leaving water running, wandering off, etc) and she can still take care of herself, you could put off looking at ALs, but I'd do some looking on my own so I'd be ready when a crisis hits and you have just days to find a facility and she's being discharged from a hospital.
Also, if she lived at an AL now she wouldn't be entirely protected from phone scams, but she'd have the distraction of a social life and the company of others to use as sounding boards - maybe wouldn't be as likely to fall prey to them. Remember, she was in charge all your life. You may not be the first person she thinks of when she wants advice on financial matters.
It isn't just the phone people Marla. My mother seems to believe that the mass mailing letters from Covenant house are written just to her. I've seen her in tears because she believed that some nun had written her a letter and then died and one of the staff sent it to my Mom. The way they use the computerized letter fonts it does look as though the letters were handwritten, especially to someone elderly with poor eyesight. If you see your parent mailing these letters then offer to take them to the post office. Take them home and open them to be sure that they have not overdone it and sent a large check or amount of cash.
If this sort of gullibility on your mom's part is a new behavior and not the sort of response she's always had (some folks are impulsive, easily manipulated and believe every huckster who comes to town, no matter what their age), then it's time for a visit to someplace that does complete neuropsych workups. If there is a large rehab center near you or a hospital with a good geriatrics department, that may be the place to start. This sort of issue can be a tip off that your parent is has developed "mild cognitive impairment", sometimes as the result of a stroke, TIA or other brain related issue. In my mom's case, knowing this and having a doctor tell her that it was no longer advisable for her to manage her own money , her own medications or drive was a God-send for us.
OH LORDY..my sister had to take over our mom's checking account after Dad passed because of these same issues..her checking account was so screwed up my sister had to hire a lawyer and and accountant.Mom was giving to everyone and everything..one day we were there visiting and I had to handle one scam artist after another..had to get the police involved..please seek legal help before something even worse happens..contact your local aging and disability agency,anyone at the court house..contact the bank and as my sister did put your name on the accounts..anything to protect her..arrange as my sister did that when the checks got to the bank they contacted my sister to verify the transactions..it was a nightmare but we got through it..so Good luck and take care

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