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A Gift for the Seniors in Your Life

Thursday, 22 December 2005 12:00 AM

It's hard to believe, but we are just days away from Christmas!

This is the time of year you contemplate about the finest gifts for your loved ones. Maybe it's the latest high-tech gadget or a piece of glittering jewelry. Have you, however, ever considered giving the gift of carefully checking on the financial well-being of your elderly parents and relatives to make sure they are not the victims of fraud?

Perhaps you should.

According to a U.S. Postal Inspection Service news release, to their shock and dismay, many individuals are suddenly discovering that the seniors in their family have fallen prey to a variety of old-fashioned scams that find their victims though the mail or telephone.

In fact, the Chief Postal Inspector has stated that the dollar losses of some seniors are catastrophic, effectively wiping out a lifetime of savings.

Postal Inspectors, therefore, are recommending that holiday travelers visiting the elderly in their families be on the lookout for the telltale signs that their loved ones are being victimized. Those highest at risk for con artists include seniors who are widows and widowers living alone.

Here is a real-life example cited by the Postal Inspectors: A senior whose wife was confined to a nursing home began to enter sweepstakes and contests, hoping to offset the burden of his additional costs. This gentleman spent nearly $10,000 before his daughter discovered an unusual amount of mail and telephone solicitations at his home. Her intervention prevented him from losing more of his money.

Here are some telltale signs, according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, that you can look for when you visit the seniors in your family:

1. Stacks of sweepstakes mail proclaiming your loved one "a guaranteed winner" or offering lottery tickets for sale.

2. An unusual number of packages containing inexpensive costume jewelry, plastic cameras or other trinkets.

3. A steady stream of unsolicited telephone calls from "fast-talking" salespeople offering "fantastic" opportunities to claim prizes or make sure-fire investments.

Also, here are some things you can do if you are concerned that your senior relatives are being victimized by unscrupulous scam artists:

1. Arrange for an unlisted phone number.

2. Volunteer to help your parents or grandparents balance their checkbooks so that you can be alerted to any questionable checks or sudden withdrawals.

3. Offer to go over credit card statements to see that only authorized purchases have been charged.

4. Offer to pick up the mail or look to see if they are receiving unsolicited sweepstakes or lottery offers.

5. Have a trusted family member or friend check the mail every day.

6. Report victimization to the nearest Postal Inspector. The Inspector can take the complaint and provide free crime prevention literature.

For more information, log on to www.usps.gov.

During this wonderful and festive time of year, while visiting your elderly loved ones, perhaps it would be a good idea to make sure that they have not fallen victim to mail swindlers or telemarketing thugs looking to make a quick and devious buck off the seniors you love.

I would like to end this column with the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from his iconic poem Christmas Bells: "... The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men."

(Note: If you manufacture or distribute any Security, Safety, Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Defense or Crime Prevention related products, please send information on your product line for possible future reference in this column to: CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com)

Copyright 2005 by Bruce Mandelblit

"Staying Safe" with Bruce Mandelblit is a regular column for the readers of NewsMax.com and NewsMax.com Magazine.

Bruce welcomes your thoughts. His e-mail address is: CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com.

Bruce is a nationally known security journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve Law Enforcement Officer.

Bruce writes Staying Safe, a weekly syndicated column covering the topics of security, safety and crime prevention.

Bruce was commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel – the state's highest honor – for his public service.

This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.


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It's hard to believe, but we are just days away from Christmas! This is the time of year you contemplate about the finest gifts for your loved ones.Maybe it's the latest high-tech gadget or a piece of glittering jewelry.Have you, however, ever considered giving the gift...
Thursday, 22 December 2005 12:00 AM
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