It can come as a shock when your elderly mother calls to confess that she just purchased a $10,000 vacuum cleaner from the nice young man who came to her door. It takes just a few hours for her to realize that she has made a mistake, and now she is calling you to ask for help. Who would think that people would take advantage of a sweet old lady?

Unfortunately, all of us need to be aware and help our parents avoid such scams. Last year in Oregon the Department of Human Services documented 672 cases of financial exploitation of elderly people.

There are things you can do now to help protect your parents from such scams:

  • Talk to your parents in advance about what to do if they get a phone call, mail, or visitors that they have questions about. Older people may be embarrassed to ask their kids for guidance and advice before they do something, so we should talk to them about the dangers of fraud and theft when dealing with strangers.
  • Be aware of a new best friend. If your parent suddenly has a new best friend, check it out. That sweet young man who is offering to help her with her chores around the house may be laying the groundwork to take advantage.
  • Visit your parents often. Make regular check ins and look for any kind of changed behavior that could be a red flag.
  • Take precautions. In some cases it may be appropriate to suggest your parents place a child’s name on the checking account or have other safeguards in place before something happens.
  • Know the resources available. The Department of Justice, the Oregon Long Term Care Ombudsman, and the Department of Human Services Adult Protective Services can help. The Department of Human Services website is

If the financial abuse or exploitation has already happened and you would like to talk with a lawyer, please call us to discuss your parents’ rights.