The following is part of the Ask the Expert series with Amy Nofziger on Identity Theft and Cybersecurity Scams, October 2019. In addition, you're invited to join our current event with Ms. Nofigzer, now thru Monday, March 30, 2020: Ask the Expert: Protect Against Coronavirus Scams

Question

My 72-year-old mother is ordering and shipping cell phones to a person and others she met online and has never met to other countries. We have confronted her and she continues to do this. At one point, she owed over $1,000 for phones, and her account had to be closed due to lack of payment. She is not senile, and we have had many discussions and she promised not to do it again. Obviously, the behavior has continued. However, she paid a $300 cell phone bill and did not have enough money to pay her rent. She is on a fixed income and has no savings or assets. We are continually having to cover her expenses. How do we put an end to this?

Answer

Your mom is definitely involved in a scam, and from my 18 years’ experience, it's very difficult to convince some people to stop. These criminals are skilled at what they do, and they have overtaken your mom's cognitive thinking and they are making her think emotionally, with possible fear tactics. I'm not sure from your message how this scam started, but I imagine it was either they claimed that she won a sweepstakes or that they fell in love with her and need these phones for various payment or to stay in communication with her.

 

If you haven't already, please report this to your local law enforcement and/or file a complaint with ic3.gov or call your local FBI office. What we want to focus on now is getting your mom to STOP sending these phones, and if she realizes that law enforcement is involved, it might jar her into the seriousness of this.

 

I can imagine you are frustrated and even a little angry, however when speaking with your mom, it's recommended to lead with compassion and empathy. From my experience working with families’ anger towards the victim doesn't help them open up and trust. Remember the criminal is telling them one story in their ear and they are trying to turn your mom against her family. These stories are far too common and we sadly hear them all the time.

 

Please do not hesitate to call the AARP Fraud Watch Helpline at 1-877-908-3360 and ask to speak to a fraud specialist who can provide you with more support and guidance.

 

Here is a family that shared their story with AARP. I'm sure you will find some of the feelings similar. https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/mother-conned-sweepstakes.html

 

 

 

*Part of the Ask the Expert series with Amy Nofziger on Identity Theft and Cybersecurity Scams, October 2019. Learn more tips and/or share your stories in our Scams & Fraud forum.

Comments

"....She is on a fixed income and has no savings or assets. We are continually having to cover her expenses. How do we put an end to this?......  She is not senile, and we have had many discussions and she promised not to do it again......".

 

You stop enabling her. If she is not senile, she is an irresonsible fool and you allow her irresponsible behavior to continue.

I am 72 and I was involved in that kind of scam and promised that they would pay for the phones but left me with a closed account then they hacked my account and put their name as user on my account and ordered more phones which I never received but because they were on my account they said I owed them for those phones. I too am retired and have very little income. I thought I was smarter than that. I reported the hack but they insisted I made these orders which I did not.And are still saying I owe for the phones.

It appears your mom is addicted, whether it be to helping others or falling for scams.  Like a drug addict, they must hit rock bottom to learn a lesson.  Hopefully, you may be able to take steps before it becomes that drastic.  Some thought must be given to restricting her spending by an allowance and you taking control of her finances.  Only in this manner you'll be aware of her expenditures.  Have you looked into obtaining Power of Attorney?  

That is terrible - I hope your mother is able to overcome this!

 

-Zach

 

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