They fought (and in many cases gave their lives) to defend the freedoms we now take for granted. That’s why we call them America’s Greatest Generation. And how do we repay them? From what I can tell, we try to scam them out of every last penny! Pure and unadulterated elder abuse.
A Week’s Worth of Scams
My Dad spent most of 1942-1945 on an all expense-paid government “vacation” to the South Pacific. Uncle Sam only required that Dad learn how to dig (and live in) a hole and fire a machine gun. (My service, by comparison, consists of paying my taxes on time and now helping him avoid elder abuse in the form of scams.) These scams come in many forms. In just one recent week with my Dad in Florida, here are a few I encountered:
- Phone calls claiming to be from the IRS requesting overdue payments and threatening eviction.
- Phone calls from a company suggesting that Dad’s computer is “sending signals” that it needs technical service. The caller liberally throws around the terms “Windows”, “Microsoft”, and “technical service department” to sound quite official. (Fortunately, Dad has a Mac.)
- Recurring charges on the credit card bill for satellite radio services we have not had in six years. Nearly impossible to cancel these, by the way.
- A company valuing a stamp collection Dad is donating, returns it with some of the most valuable stamps missing.
- My personal favorite is the oxygen machine company that makes it impossible to return their equipment–so they can keep billing Medicare. This company has the scam down to a science:
- First, you need a prescription from a doctor saying you no longer need the equipment.
- Second, you call the two customer service numbers on the oxygen canisters. One phone number is out of service, the other leads literally to another Medicare scam!
- Third, buried on the website, you find the right number but the company never answers, calls back or schedules time to pick up the equipment.
- Fourth, the company keeps billing Medicare.
Be Careful Reporting Medicare Fraud or Abuse
This last “scam”, or at least studied indifference to saving Medicare money, caused me to call the Medicare fraud and abuse hotline: 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477). In doing so, I mistakenly dialed 1-800-444-8477. Guess what I got? An offer for “folks over 50” of a free medical alert monitoring device. AARP tells me this too is another scam. Now that is chutzpah!
Wisdom from the Old Man
I always thought Dad was paranoid about everyone trying to steal from him. After a week with him in Florida, I think he may be right. Our parents protected us from child abuse, its time to protect them from elder abuse. Sad! (as the tweeter-in-chief might say.)