You see the headlines about terrible scams, you read the research about elder financial abuse, but still you hope that it won’t happen to someone you love. When Michelle’s mom Helen began showing signs of dementia, Michelle knew she needed to be wary of people taking advantage of her mom, so she started working to protect her finances. She canceled a number of Helen’s credit cards and began to speak with Helen’s financial advisors to make sure her mom’s assets were secure. However, Michelle was still unprepared for the lengths scammers will go to in order to take money from a vulnerable adult.
Helen had always taken pride in being able to live independently and take care of herself. Even with her husband residing in a long-term facility for Alzheimer’s patients, she has continued to stay in her home and handle errands and appointments herself. On a recent evening, she stopped by Albertsons – the local supermarket – for a few items before heading home. As soon as she got in the door, a woman claiming to be from her credit card company called to tell Helen her card had been compromised at Albertsons and she would need to order a new one. Since a similar situation had happened a few months prior, Helen assumed this call was real. Plus, the woman on the phone knew where she had used the card and how to get in touch with her.
However, this woman wasn’t actually calling from the credit card company; she was a sophisticated scammer who had followed Helen home from the store and knew to call as soon as she was inside. What’s worse, the caller claimed that someone from the police department would need to come by and pick up the credit card that night. She also told Helen that she would need to be home the following Tuesday to sign for her replacement card.
When the scammer, pretending to be a police officer, came by to collect the card, she convinced Helen to hand over her other cards – including one Michelle had hidden away for emergencies. Minutes after the scammer left, all three cards had racked up thousands of dollars of charges. And while two of the actual card companies did call to verify the suspicious activity, Helen – disoriented and a little indignant – said she had made the purchases herself. Meanwhile, the scammer continued to call Helen, even after she’d taken the cards, with a likely intent of exploiting Helen again. Had the family not stepped in and reacted appropriately, this would have become an even more serious situation.
Once they realized this had happened, Michelle and her brother took immediate action – filing a report with the police and cancelling all of the cards. Thanks to security footage, law enforcement has been able to identify the woman as a known, formerly imprisoned credit card scammer and believe she is part of a sophisticated group of con artists who perpetrate this type of crime throughout the country (at this time, she has not been caught). Because the credit card charges were fraudulent, the family was not responsible for paying them, but the incident was a scary wake-up call for Michelle that more needed to be done to keep her mother safe!
This is when Michelle turned to True Link – a service she’d discovered months before when searching for ways to protect Helen’s finances, but something her mom wasn’t ready to try at the time. With the dangers of elder financial abuse now a reality for her family, she reached out to our customer support team to learn more about replacing her mom’s credit cards with the True Link Card.
Since becoming a True Link customer, Michelle worries less about her mom and appreciates that any losses to scams will be limited. She’s disabled cash withdrawals, put limits on purchase amounts, and blocked specific stores to prevent transactions her mom wouldn’t typically make anyways. Helen enjoys her independence by making her own purchases at the salon, grocery store, or restaurants with friends, and she doesn’t have to worry about paying the bill since the $10 monthly fee is automatically charged to the card.
While Michelle is still troubled by the nature of the scam that targeted Helen, she now has greater peace of mind knowing her mother’s finances are safe. To supplement this protection, Michelle has also hired a dementia aide through a verified agency to help Helen with non-financial needs; it’s a comfort to Michelle to have someone watching over her mother when she’s not able to be there.
We appreciate Michelle’s openness in sharing this story with us and hope it helps other families protect their loved ones before something like this happens to them. To learn more about whether you or someone you care about is at risk of fraud, use our free fraud calculator and learn how True Link can be your family’s first line of defense against elder financial abuse.