Random Lengths News

Telemarket­ing Preys on Seniors

- By Lyn Jensen, Columnist

My mother, who died last year, is still alive on countless telemarket­ing lists, whether from robocalls or human salesperso­ns. It’s bad enough I get calls for “Madeline” (or my father, “Dale,” who died earlier, and whose name remains on accounts, too). Some junk accounts mangle my mother’s name into “Modelo” or “Modello” or “Modelho.” I explained there’s no such person here and request “please remove this number from your call list,” but I soon get another one.

Other calls come for “John(ny),” and to make a long story short, no “John(ny)” has been near my home’s phone for the entire 21st century. I say, “No John(ny) here, please remove us from your call list,” but the barrage just keeps on coming.

Some robocalls pitch dubious Medicare options or claim a healthcare profession­al has recommende­d me for a medical alert system or say, “Thank you for choosing” a hotel chain I never chose. Others seek to panic me about a non-existent charge on my Amazon account or extend my auto warranty. (One of those has been giving me “final notice” for two years.) Dealing with this flood of nuisance calls is one more battle my mother left me to fight alone. Whether I don’t answer the call, or answer the phone and ask to be removed from the list, or go through the hassle of placing my home phone number on a do-not call registry, the junk-call horse is out of the barn.

I suspect some calls can’t be controlled by a do-not-call list. One example is ghoulish real estate predators who want to talk to my mother about her property in probate. The caller obviously doesn’t understand if a person’s property is in probate, that’s a fairly clear indication the person’s dead. I’m supposed to do business with someone so clueless — or crooked?

Then there are more obvious crooks, including calls that pretend to be from the Internal Revenue Service or some such authority, threatenin­g to make you pay up — it’s easy to see how a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s could fall for such a set-up.

My mother, her mind clouded by dementia, spent hours on the phone with callers who claimed they wanted to perform maintenanc­e inside her computer. I’d try to explain such calls were from identity thieves, trying to scam her by getting informatio­n in her computer, and she should just hang up.

“I don’t have anything on my computer!” she’d bellow. She was a victim of identity theft, though — some racket counterfei­ted her driver’s license, and she had no idea how they targeted her. The crime may have started with a look inside her computer, showing her to be an easy mark.

Obviously, a patient with Alzheimer’s or dementia can’t be expected to understand such calls — and could sign up for six “extended auto warranties” in one day or hand whole bank accounts to fraudsters. Relatives and caregivers have enough challenges without hassling junk calls.

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