Are any of your loved ones older than 60? If so, do you know what¡¦s happening in their lives on a day-to-day basis? You should.
¡§People over age 60 make up only one-eighth of the U.S. population, yet they constitute one of every three scam victims,¡¨ writes Sid Kirchheimer, an advisor to AARP, in Scam-Proof Your Life. Telephone ploys, identity theft, get-rich-quick schemes, sweepstakes prizes¡Xtoday¡¦s hucksters have a wide-ranging repertoire of tricks in their bag.
I recently interviewed William Bratton, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. He advises people to stay involved with the seniors in their lives and ask specific questions. ¡§Engage them in the details of how they¡¦re feeling,¡¨ he says. ¡§Ask, ¡¥Who did you hear from today?¡¦ and ¡¥What's going on?¡¦"
Bratton told me that crooks often try to elicit credit card or bank information over the phone. So he advises people to be on alert if a caller says, ¡§You must act now or the offer won't be any good,¡¨ or claims you've won something but have to pay for postage, handling or other charges. Use these self-defense strategies:
Watch the mail pile: Monitor how many catalogs, sweepstakes mailings, vacation home offers and investment solicitations come in. Be prepared to act if you see that number increasing. (Better yet, get your relative¡¦s name and contact information off of the marketing lists. To learn how, go to
Keep an eye on the Caller ID log: Is there an increase in telephone calls from unfamiliar numbers? As folks age and spend more time alone, they tend to welcome a friendly voice on the phone. Crooks take advantage of that.
Monitor purchases: Is your relative¡¦s home filling up with new purchases, particularly expensive ones? If so, someone could be hitting him with a scam in which he must make purchases for the opportunity to ¡§win big.¡¨
Take stock: Before you bring in any outside caregivers, inventory your loved one¡¦s possessions and financial accounts. You both need to be aware of what valuables are in the house so they don¡¦t disappear. You¡¦ll also need to help your relative keep track of her money.
Be wary of isolation tactics. Forced isolation is typical predatory behavior. Be wary of a caregiver who tries to separate your loved one from the rest of the family, or restrict your contact. If you live far away and telephone conversations with your relative are difficult, consider sending someone you trust to visit regularly and inform you about the situation.
You and your parents should also know:
„h It¡¦s illegal for companies to operate contests or sweepstakes that require payment for entry or to claim a prize. In fact, these companies are prohibited from even suggesting that your chances of winning will improve if you buy something.
„h It¡¦s illegal for telemarketers to ask for an upfront fee to help a person get a loan, even if they guarantee or strongly imply that the loan will be made.
„h There is no reason to give your credit card number, bank account information or Social Security number to a telemarketer, even to claim an actual prize.

The best advice? Take an active role in the lives of your older family members. You are their first line of defense, so visit and stay involved. If predators see that you are present and concerned, they¡¦ll be less likely to strike.

Author's Bio: 

Dorothy Breininger, America¡¦s most trusted professional organizer and President of the Delphi Center for Organization, is a regular expert on the Today Show , the Dr. Phil Show, QVC, PBS, Retirement Living Television, and Oprah & Friends. Dorothy has been featured in Forbes, Woman¡¦s Day, and Entrepreneur Magazines as well as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, and Chicago Tribune, and her products have received the acclaimed Mature Media awards for 2007.

In addition to being a sought after national speaker and spokesperson, Dorothy is co-author of several books including The Senior Organizer and Chicken Soup for the Soul ¡V Life Lessons and Organizing Tips, and Cherished Memories ¡V the Story of My Life. Dorothy is also Executive Producer of the just-released film, Saving our Parents (featuring Police Chief Bratton and Director of Public Health for LA County, Dr. Jonathan Fielding). Her compassionate, focused and successful work with clients -- from corporate executives to high profile celebrities to our maturing population -- has earned Dorothy the title ¡§National Small Business Champion of the Year¡¨ from the Small Business Association and Most Innovative Organizer of the Year 2008 from the National Association of Professional Organizers.

For more information on Dorothy, please visit: or Phone: 818-597-0617