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Q: My widowed mother is still pretty independent, but I worry about her being vulnerable to scam artists who victimize the elderly. How can I protect her against this kind of abuse?
Jim: We’ve all heard the despicable horror stories. Help your mom learn to watch out for threats and to recognize common types of fraud:
• Identity theft. Identifying numbers — Social Security, credit card, driver’s license, telephone, bank account — can be stolen from a purse or wallet, taken from the mailbox or receipts in the trash, and even obtained over the phone on an invented pretext. If your mom uses a computer, install anti-malware software.
• Home-maintenance fraud. Beware of prepaid improvements or repair (siding, roofing, driveways, etc.) offered at greatly reduced prices. Once paid, the con artist disappears or uses inferior materials. Ask about affiliations with professional trade associations and consumer agencies. It’s best to avoid hiring workers who solicit door-to-door.
• Telemarketing and mail fraud. Be aware of glossy mail-order ads and smooth-talking appeals over the phone or TV that market unneeded goods and services. Solicitors apply pressure to order immediately using a credit card because the offer is “limited.” Beware of requests for checking account numbers.
• Sweepstakes, gambling and lotteries. Sweepstakes letters lure seniors with promises of “guaranteed prizes.” Marketers of gambling and lotteries target the elderly.
• Health and medical fraud. Simply put, never invest in health-care products or treatments without first consulting with a doctor or pharmacist.
• Financial fraud. Living trust scams, investment fraud, pyramid schemes, phony “associations” and the “bank examiner scheme” are all commonly aimed at elderly people. Make sure your mom has a comprehensive financial plan for her personal investments, insurance and estate. A reputable financial planner can help her put her affairs in order. Then it should be easy and automatic to say no to all solicitations.
For additional information on this topic, I’d encourage you to consult with several helpful organizations: The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a.org); Caregiver Action Network (caregiveraction.org); and National Center on Elder Abuse (ncea.aoa.gov).
Q: Our daughter is almost 10 years old. I’ve assumed that “the conversation” about puberty was still a ways off, but now I’m not so sure; she’s growing up so fast. What do I need to know?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: There’s some debate about why it’s happening, but there’s no question that puberty is occurring earlier and earlier in girls. For some, it could be as young as 7 or 8. Puberty brings about big changes in a girl’s physical development and body image. And that can be scary if she isn’t prepared for what’s coming. That’s why helping your daughter learn what to expect can be crucial to her building a healthy identity.
From a practical standpoint, it’s usually best if Mom handles these conversations if possible. She has the personal experience to draw from, and daughters tend to feel more comfortable with another female. This means single dads might want to consider having a trusted family member help out, or perhaps a woman whom your daughter knows and respects.
This conversation takes a bit of preparation. Our organization provides numerous helpful resources at FocusOnTheFamily.com/parenting, including a free downloadable guide on these issues (focusonthefamily.com/thetalk).
The main thing is to connect with your daughter and reassure her that the coming changes are normal. Be positive and encouraging. And remember, even if your daughter has already entered into puberty, it’s not too late to have an open conversation. This is a great opportunity to reinforce that you’re there to support and walk with her as she grows into womanhood.