Protecting the elderly from scams coming in the mail

Friday, January 2nd 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The Do-Not-Call list keeps millions of Americans from being deluged with phone calls requesting money.

One of the downsides is people are now sending their requests through the mail. The elderly, especially, can get hundreds of such mailings. And as News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright tells us, many contain predictions of doom and threats that leave seniors feeling scared not to give.

Phyllis McGilbray tries to keep an eye on her in-laws as they get older and more frail. She especially keeps an eye on their mail and is shocked by all the wild claims made in order to receive money.

"Stories that are in now way true, but, letters written so that anyone reading them, particularly the elderly, would believe they are threatened."

Many of the letters play on things that would scare seniors the most, losing their Medicare and Social Security. One claims it needs money for a constitutional amendment to keep Social Security money from going to illegal workers from Mexico.

Another needs money to defeat the United Nations, which it claims is anti-American. Another one needs money to stop slave reparations or every American will pay more for gasoline.

And, still another says if you don't pay, you'll lose your right to elect members to Congress and it goes on and on. "She gets this mail daily and she believes, because she's been such a good citizen, that's she's helping. All she's doing is helping these people line their pockets while she depletes her life-savings."

The best thing is for a family member to go through the mail first to protect those who are scared or confused. "It's like they look for the weakest and target the weakest."

If a family member isn't available, seniors need to remember the best place for all these offers is in the trash.

Most of these so called non-profit agencies admit in the small print that your contribution is not tax deductible, that's a tip-off. Another is, if the group uses threats or claims you must send money within a certain number of days.

Check with the Better Business Bureau if you have questions.