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Seniors Beware of Scams! Nigerian Princes.

By this time, almost anyone who has email has received a solicitation that a foreign potentate or a family member of such, needs to remove money from their country (usually Nigerian, but many others as well) and wishes for your to assist them in exchange for a significant share in the wealth.   There are a variety of stories, but they essentially boil down to a request for your banking information in order to “deposit” money into your account.

It is amazing to me that anyone actually fell for this scam, but evidently enough people did for this to go on for at least a decade. What people seem to forget is that what can go in to your account can also go out. In other words, if someone has your banking information they can withdraw money as well as deposit it.

What motivated people to fall for this? .  Anyone thinking about this seriously for a moment or two would realize that no one is going to deposit huge amounts of money in your account (a relative stranger) and trust you to give most of it back.  And, huge deposits of this sort would certainly alert banking and government authorities to investigate in case of crime, terrorism or drugs.  But greed can make people stupid, as we shall see in future blogs.  And, sometimes the “story” is that the “person” writing to you is being victimized in some dreadful way and that they are a Christian in a non-Christian community begging for help.  Deeply religious people may feel that it is their duty to help, and the possible payoff is only a further inducement.

The response to any such request is to ignore it. No stranger is the world is going to deposit substantial amounts of money in your account, no matter how pretty the words are in the accompanying letter.

These days, most people have heard of this gambit and are unlikely to fall for it and anyway, most of these letters will find themselves in your “spam” file. But it is worth noting as this was the first widespread internet scam.  I received one just a week before writing this.  My hope is that as we explore this world of swindles you will learn to catch on to new ones, even without the warnings.

In the following blogs in this series we will look at a number of common scams.

Whether a scam artist approaches you by email, text (rare), telephone or snail mail (also rare) the best thing to do is ignore, delete and Don’t Worry about it!”

2. What Aides Do Right

Imagine getting your arms and legs, feet and hands rubbed with soothing cream. Imagine having your favorite meals prepared, served and cleaned up after you.  Imagine having your laundry done and put away, your bath or shower facilitated, your clothes laid out and put on.  No, you are not Marie-Antoinette, or even Maria Shriver.  You could just be Mary Blake, or Maria Gomez or Mariah Washington.  As an elderly or disabled individual you are entitled to these services and more as part of your daily plan of care by a health care aide.

Health care aides may be the heroes and heroines of this decade and those to come. Sometimes poorly paid, often uneducated, frequently immigrants from third world countries, health care aides are helping to manage and extend the lives of tens of thousands of Americans suffering from chronic illness, temporary physical disability or dementia.  In your home (or in a facility), health care aides do the heavy and frequently dirty work of cleaning up after us, providing meals and maintaining our health.

In addition to what’s written on the “care plan,” aides may provide us company, encouragement, emotional support, solace in our loneliness, and tolerance for our moods and frustrations. For many individuals, their health care aide is just about the only social contact they have.  Aides initiate outings, arrange doctors’ visits, keep families and friends informed about our well-being and sometimes act as mediators with family members when there is tension or discord.

As a psychologist specializing in aging and disabilities issues, I’ve seen hundreds of health care aides in action, either in my office or when I’ve made home visits. The extent and complexity of demands made on them is astonishing.  At their best, aides can become the mother, sister, best friend or confidante of their dependents.  They can make life worth it to those who have lost their will to live, enable others to function as they would have before disability struck, and cushion the blow those disabilities take on formerly independent and self-sufficient people.  To be a health care aide is to be trusted with the greatest responsibility of any civilization, that of taking care of its weakest and most dependent individuals.

(1) Seniors; Beware of Scams

It seems like every time you turn around, there is some new type of scam to take advantage of you and separate you from your money. In this series, I will talk about types of scams and what to do about them.  I will be focusing on senior scams, because older people are less aware of these fraudulent actions and more likely to be victimized by them.  The response, in most cases, should be the same:  “Don’t respond!”

Scam artists take advantage of our insecurity, ignorance, loneliness and greed. This series of blogs can do something about the first two (insecurity and ignorance) but relatively little about the third and fourth (loneliness and greed) except to remind you that very little is free in this world.  The probability that your soulmate is waiting for you in Jamaica or that a Kenyan millionaire is eager to give you millions of dollars is unlikely in the extreme.  ANY stranger asking for money is likely to be doing so under false pretenses.  Here is a sample scame.

This scam is perpetrated through a phone call informing you that you owe the IRS money and that if you do not respond it will be an indication that you are blatantly violating your responsibilities and that severe action will be taken. Late in 2015, I received three of these solicitations in a week.  The first time it happened it briefly alarmed me, until I realized that the IRS NEVER calls.  The second and third times I erased the messages without a thought.  I did, however, inform ALL my senior patients to be on the alert for such calls and a surprising number had already received them.  I take the opportunity, here, to warn you readers, as well.  Ignore these calls.  Hang up if someone attempts to shake you down in the name of a government agency.  If you owe money, you will be alerted through a letter, not a phone call.

Whether a scam artist approaches you by email, text (rare), telephone or snail mail (also rare) the best thing to do is ignore, delete and Don’t Worry about it!”

[If you are a family member or close friend reading this, it is important to alert the senior to the scam.]

1. Introduction – Living with AIDES or The Home Health Care Conundrum

As the US population ages, more and more elderly (and disabled) individuals are requiring home care services to get along. The need for these services may be temporary or long term.  Having this assistance may be critical to “aging in place” or remaining at home.  Most people would rather not live in an “assisted living facility” or in a nursing home.

Home health care is a burgeoning industry and is predicted to grow rapidly as the baby-boomer generation continues to survive into very old age.  Elderly people, today, are much healthier and more independent than ever before.  They wish to remain in their own homes and have even been preparing for this eventuality by buying “extended care” insurance policies which pay for home care, usually based on the insured’s inability to perform some requisite number of “activities of daily living.”  These may be some combination of:  dressing, bathing, eating, preparing food, shopping, getting around, or safely remaining alone.  Home health aides may be expected to help with “self-care” (bathing, dressing, toileting), some cleaning (keeping bathrooms and kitchens clean, light dusting) and laundry.  They are not expected to do heavy cleaning, washing windows, bathing a dog, or other household tasks, AND they are not expected to do any care for other people living in the home (husbands or roommates, children).

While home health aides can make a huge difference in the quality of life of elderly and disabled people, there are certain consistent problems that come up when both the aide and the patient are not prepared for the relationship.  For example, should aides be on the phone while working?  Should you offer to share food with your aide?  Can you bargain with your aide to provide services they are not officially supposed to perform?

In this series of blogs, I will discuss both the good things that aides can do to make life better and the problems that come up.  Throughout, I will suggest solutions which can facilitate the aide-patient relationship.

If you have any questions, please email me and I will answer it in a blog, if possible.  It may not be possible because of the large number of emails.

Read on.

Herb Gingold, PhD

11. How Patients See Home Health Aides – The Aide (or Patient) as Bully

Continuing the theme of Concerns and Issues with home health aides, I would like to talk in this post about bullying. A very …

10. How Patients See Home Health Aides – The Aide as Persecutor (3)

In this blog I want to discuss aides who are actually deliberately malicious in their behavior. These are serious situations …

9. How Patients See Home Health Aides – The Aide as Persecutor (2)

In this blog we will continue talking about ways in which aides can impair the lives of their charges. Aide as Reorganizer …