There was a desperate edge to Nancy's voice as her daughter picked up the phone.
"Is Melissa OK?" Nancy asked, not even pausing to say hello.
"Sure, Mom," her daughter replied, "she's at college. Why?"
Moments earlier, Nancy had received a disturbing phone call informing her that her granddaughter was in a distant country and had been arrested. Bail money was urgently needed. The mysterious caller did not identify Melissa by name. But the call struck terror into Nancy's heart. It didn't help that, at 84, Nancy was getting a bit forgetful and confused.
Luckily, Nancy's daughter was able to assure her that Melissa was safe at school. But the call left a lingering taste of panic for Nancy.
Preying on the fears of elderly grandparents in this way is one of the most reprehensible scams we've heard of. If Nancy had wired money to the caller, instead of checking with her daughter, she would be out thousands of dollars.
How can we keep our seniors safe from predators like this caller?
First, if a parent is becoming confused and forgetful, keep emphasizing the importance of calling a trusted relative in case of a disturbing call giving information about a loved one.
Second, check in with an aging parent frequently. Daily is best. Panic and confusion could prompt a senior to follow bogus instructions without doing a reality check.
Read more about other types of phone scams directed at seniors.