DEAR AMY: My siblings and I have a big problem with our 80-year-old widowed mother. She is into mail scams! She is amazed that she gets 20-some letters almost every day. Some she tosses, but others she is sure are legitimate -- they say she is the "guaranteed winner!" She doesn't know how much money she has sent off to these "sweepstakes" in the hopes of winning millions and/or big fancy cars. We have tried to talk to her -- saying that a couple of years ago she never would have fallen for these scams. We have said our late father would be disappointed. We have shared articles about mail fraud targeting seniors and got the police to talk to her. We got her to agree to show the letters to her lawyer. We said if he said they were legit, we would stop nagging her. He explained they were all scams -- and she won't believe him either! I tried explaining to her that while she can afford to waste her money on these scams, there are a lot of seniors who are spending their grocery money and that she is helping the scammers prolong their scheme. I tried telling her she doesn't need the "winnings" -- she has more than she will ever spend and will leave a nice sum to her family. We have threatened to use our power of attorney to redirect her mail and/or take over her finances. She is threatening to disinherit us and cut off contact with us. What more can we do?
Scared of Scams
DEAR SCARED: Unless you exercise the power of attorney, your mother has the right to spend her money however she wants, whether on gambling in Atlantic City, donating to the philharmonic or on obvious scams.
I shared your note with Amy Nofziger of the AARP Fraud Watch Network, (877-908-3360), who deals with this every day: "I always try to help adult children know the emotional connection the older adult may feel for their scammer. They can always try to stop access to the money, but the emotional connection is harder to sever. One time an adult child said to me, 'I finally told my mom, if it's such a good deal, let me in on it, and maybe I can win too.' Once that senior thought their child might be at risk of losing their money, all of a sudden the fun stopped.
"Another put her mom on a budget for these scams. She knew it was a scam, but allowed her mom $100 a week, therefore her mom still felt in control." Monitor this without pressuring or judging, stay closely connected, and make sure her daily life is as stimulating and interesting as possible. You should call the Fraud Watch Network to discuss this with a peer counselor.
DEAR AMY: My youngest grandson has just left from a week-long visit. He lives out of state and we rarely see him. He is 8 years old and this was his first visit with us. We have realized that he lies, he cheats, he is incredibly rude and is basically unpleasant to be around. This is the first grandchild with whom we have had such an unpleasant experience. His parents will expect us to invite him back next year, but we aren't interested. How do we address this issue with his parents?
DEAR GRANDPARENTS: Your grandson is 8. He doesn't know you really well. Discuss the visit with his parents, tell them that he seemed quite unhappy, discuss his behavior and ask for some suggestions.
It is certainly within your right to refuse another visit, but this boy needs more -- not less -- time with his grandparents.
DEAR AMY: "L in NJ" mentioned wanting to get a puppy for a woman who had lost interest in him. Thank you for discouraging this in the strongest terms. Giving animals as gifts to people who don't want/can't take care of them is one reason our animal shelters are so crowded.
DEAR LOVER: I agree. Giving a puppy to someone to try to win her affection is ill-advised, to say the least.