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Scammers and con artists often target older people, and elders may be more likely to fall victim to fraud, either because they are unfamiliar with some common scams or because the effects of early Alzheimer’s or other dementia allow them to be more easily taken advantage of.

Of course, when older loved ones are no longer able to make financial decisions for themselves, then a power of attorney is appropriate. But when elderly parents are living independently, but potentially at risk of being taken advantage of, knowing how to protect them can be tricky.

When talking to one’s parents about the risk of fraud, it is important to avoid shaming or blaming them. This can lead them to become defensive and resistant to sharing information. Also the simplistic solution of “just hang up the phone” is not likely to be convincing. Instead, have a conversation about what kinds of calls, letters, or emails come in, and the facts about common scams. Are your parents aware that government agencies will never make unsolicited calls and ask for personal information? Do they know that notices to pay a fee to collect contest winnings are fraudulent? You can also appeal to your parents’ natural desire to protect others. Ask them whether they see certain things to watch out for, and this can reinforce their own healthy skepticism.