When we’re growing up, it’s our parents’ job to protect us from anything that could be harmful to us. They make sure that we have what we need, that we get where we’re supposed to be and that we are safe. As we, their children, grow older however, some of that responsibility shifts. We begin to worry about our aging parents. We grow concerned about their health and their wellbeing. We also become protective of them, as they once were of us in our youth.
From the plumber who overcharged my parents $800 to put in a new toilet, to the electrician who said that even though he couldn’t fix their electrical problem, he needed to be paid because his men had spent the day trying, to the fake email from a local telephone company (that my parents don’t use) saying they owed a large bill, these scam artists infuriate me.
Why are seniors a prime target?
They typically have some accumulated wealth. A lifetime of savings can be gone in an instant when a savvy criminal works to defraud their victim.
They also tend to be less digitally savvy I know there are exceptions to this generalization, but there are also many grandparents getting computer and smartphone advice from their children and even grandchildren these days.
Our parents are generally more trusting and less jaded than we are. Our generation thinks everyone is out to get us. Our parents think that most people are just as nice and kind as they are.
They respect authority and don’t want to be in trouble. This is why so many seniors respond to IRS scams and false notifications from law enforcement.
They’re helpful and loving. Ever wonder who is responding to the email or social media message that says you’re in London in jail and you need $500 wired to an address immediately to make bail? Your Grandma, that’s who, because she loves you and Grandmas always bail out their grandchildren.
I want to put a protective bubble around my parents as they age. I want to shelter them the way they have always sheltered me. I want to take over all of their business and make them check with me before they pay anyone or respond to anything.
But most of all, I want them to be treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve. I want them not to be afraid, or to ever feel “silly” for falling for a scam. So what can we do? Answer their questions and talk to them so that they’re never embarrassed to share any situation they find themselves in, just the way that they’ve been there for us our whole lives. It’s our turn to protect them from harm.
If you haven’t lately, call your parents and offer to come over and take a look at their computer. Offer to help them update their security software and to set up secure passwords on any accounts they have. Let them know that you’re there for them, just the way they’ve always been there for you.
Sylvia is a financial educator at Virginia Credit Union and loves teaching about personal finances. Her biggest challenge is to “practice what she preaches,” so she's always looking for teachable moments to keep her healthy financially and to share with others.
Other stories by Sylvia W.