Managing Email and a Dementia Diagnosis

While ANYONE can be at risk of identity theft, helping someone with cognitive impairment or a dementia diagnosis is an amplifying factor in considering risk.

woman in pink sweater sitting on bed
Anyone can be a victim of email fraud.
Photo by Ivan Samkov on

I am a huge advocate of helping an individual maintain dignity, meaning and purpose, but want to suggest a few ways to minimize the risks of fraud and identity theft.

1) CREATE A UNIQUE EMAIL PASSCODE. The number of breaches to our online accounts means that if you use repeating passcodes, you need to make sure your email has a unique passcode. Some scams include monitoring your email and sending a message to your Financial Advisor or Mortgage Lender with NEW instructions and can lead to a major financial loss. I was surprised that some fraudsters are putting the work into this one, but after one client had over $40,000 wired out of her IRA to a new bank account, I learned how prevalent the threat of this occurring has become. The next time your financial advisor calls you to confirm you requested the money, be THANKFUL. They are doing this to protect you and your money.

2) DON’T USE THE COMPUTER FOR FINANCIAL ACCOUNT ACCESS. I recommend having the computer used to connect with friends online not have any financial access URLs saved or passcodes stored. Too often, I have had a client respond to a pop-up, or have someone call saying they are “APPLE SUPPORT” and get access to the computer. If you are using it to connect to financial accounts, there is an increased risk of identity theft and fraud.

One of my colleagues walked in to help a client to see someone in the online banking and trying to transfer money out of the account. Thankfully they shut off the computer before any money was taken — but that was too close for comfort. We had a sweep done of the computer and removed the saved links and discussed with him why we did this, and how we could help him access this information in other ways. He is happy he can still get email and access the Zoom calls with his church.

3) SET UP TEXT ALERTS FOR FINANCIAL ACTIVITY. I have done this for my own accounts, and have set this up for clients so I know when money is being spent from the bank and credit card accounts. It’s just a simple way to ensure we get a first alert on any fraudulent activity.

The best offense is a good defense and I hope this give you a few ideas on how best to support a loved one. Suggested.

Stopping Scammers Together

oldphoneAt the local community center, I’m involved in the Lifetime Learning program and teach a class on how to organize and protect personal information so it can be easily found, or shared when needed. There are great discussions in these sessions and last week, one of the participants shared the recent article written by Michelle Singletary with The Washington Post titled Let’s Band Together to Stop Scammers.

Fraud affects everyone, but many of the scams are targeted specifically toward seniors. The one that surprised me was done by telephone and the individuals talked their target into giving them online access to their computer. They would say there were calling to update the software or trouble-shoot a problem identified with the machine and during the process access the hard drive and steal personal information stored on the computer. The typical result is immediate fraudulent use of credit card information stored on the computer.

My family went through a period of several years where we were concerned that our parents would be scammed. Not only did my Mom seem to misplace her purse weekly, but we had one instance where my Mom called my sister (who is a lawyer) at 2 a.m. in the morning worried about some home improvement contracts she signed. For the same work, my Mom had signed one contract for $800 and another for over $5,000. We assume my parents forgot they signed one contract and hired a second company to handle the repairs. When I arrived the next day, my Mom had forgotten the call and it took a while to uncover the two contracts. We were lucky she told one of us about it and we could intervene to help.

There are so many types of scams, but in general it seems that when in doubt, you should check it out. Never give information to someone over the telephone asking for personal information. AARP has a Fraud Watch Network that is free. You can enroll online and receive both electronic information as well as updates in the mail. The crooks are crafty and have made stealing our identity and money their full-time job. Forewarned.