There are so many ways to be conned. Especially if you’re a senior citizen. I used to worry that my mother would lose all of her little fortune to some cruel predator. Living alone, in her nineties, and hard of hearing, my mom was the perfect target for Medicare scams, fake charities, cyber-stalking, con artists selling counterfeit prescription drugs or anti-aging products, and phony grandkid-in-trouble-send-money messages. I had nightmares that she’d be a victim of identity theft or credit-card fraud. She was always getting calls from telemarketers and various organizations asking for donations. And who knows what phishing and financial hoaxes plagued her emails.
Mom loved sweepstakes and lotteries. You’re the lucky winner, they’d announce: just pay a couple-hundred for shipping and handling. Buy or donate and you’ll have a chance to win… they’d lure her in. My mother had a hard time saying no to any of these, as witnessed now by the piles of her junk mail still being forwarded daily to my house.
“She’s in a better place now,” people said when Mom died last winter, “May she rest in peace.” But there was no resting in peace for me. I went crazy phoning to pay the bills and close all her accounts. Banks, Medicare, Department of Motor Vehicles…. At every institution, I was repeatedly asked for her birth date, her passwords and mother’s maiden name, her “social” and address. For months I felt queasy spewing out her private information to these strangers over the phone. But not as nauseous as last week when my sister told me of the alert from one of the medical providers: they’d been hacked and Mom’s personal data had been breached.
It felt like I, myself as much as my dead mother, had been invaded. Robbed. Violated. I avoided leaving home and didn’t answer the phone. Had I somehow contributed to that cyber crime? I stayed off Facebook for days.
My friend emailed me a photo she’d snapped. Me. In “a rare relaxing moment,” she wrote. This might be the last time you see me resting because OMG, I’m the vulnerable senior now. And I’m horrified that I won’t even be safe from hackers when I’m dead.
Have you checked your credit rating lately? What do you do to protect your identity, your money, your peace?