Father’s Day is June 15. It got me thinking about my dad and the changes our relationship has gone through as he enters his “twilight” years. For me, and millions of Boomers and Gen Xers, the time has come when many of our dads now need our help. They might be facing health problems or have trouble adjusting to living alone. My dad has always been vital and independent; the guy others look to for advice and leadership.
My dad has been my “go-to” guy for as long as I can remember, but now it’s time for me to be his “go-to.” I want to make sure he is protected when it comes to identity theft and scams commonly perpetrated against the elderly. Understandably, my dad prefers to do everything himself and this role reversal can be difficult. How can I take on the role of his teacher when he has been my teacher for as long as I can remember?
Call In the Experts
I’ve learned that a gentle approach is the best course. Rather than lecture or tell him what he should do, I try to have discussions that help him “get there” on his own, showing him examples of things that come in the mail that look legit but are fake. For example, the other day I received a warning about a very dangerous computer virus from the head of our IT department, so I forwarded it to my dad, knowing that he’d like hearing from a high-level expert. I followed up with a call asking if he read the article and we chatted about how cyber scammers try to lure you into clicking on dangerous links that can compromise your security.
I also sent him an article about how cell phones numbers are harder for scammers to access than landlines, and wouldn’t you know it, a few days later, he called to tell me he bought an iPhone and planned on screening his landline calls from now on. This was a huge relief until I realized he might not know about “locking” his phone and keeping the software up-to-date, but baby steps. We’ll tackle that next time I visit!
More Tips For Keeping Dad Safe From Identity Theft
Here are some more ideas about how to help keep your dad safe from identity theft:
Phone solicitation and junk mail: Don’t just tell your dad to hang up or throw out the letter. Have a talk about why. You can recommend he watch the hit movie, Nebraska, starring Oscar nominee Bruce Dern. It’s a great example of how you can’t win a contest you didn’t enter. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Remind him that government agencies don’t make unsolicited phone calls and don’t call you and ask for personal information.
Stranger danger: Don’t shame or blame. Remind him what he taught you when you were a kid: Don’t trust strangers—especially those seeking personal information and money. Tell dad less is more––so play it close to the vest when it comes to sharing information.
Sweepstakes and other too good to be true investments: The Bernie Madoff story struck fear into so many people’s hearts. Victims were financially devastated by his despicable crimes, and for the oldest ones who no longer work; replenishing their savings is impossible.
If you think dad is playing a sweepstakes or falling prey to a “double your money” investment scam, use a bit of reverse psychology and ask how you can get in on the deal. Dad won’t want you to lose money so that will open the way for a discussion about why he is engaging in behavior that he wouldn’t want you to do. Talking it through together will help steer him in the right direction.
Opt him out: Sign dad up with the Do Not Call Registry, which will stop unsolicited calls and text messages and help protect him from identity theft. Also register him at DMAchoice.org to stop junk mail.
Stay alert and involved: Keep the conversation going when you visit, but don’t be accusatory and don’t act like you are checking up on him. If you don’t live nearby, you can ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye out for strangers visiting dad’s home, or even to take a peek at the mail he receives.
Happy Father’s Day
Helping keep dad’s identity safe is a great gift that he will appreciate for years to come. We wish a very happy Father’s Day to all the dads in your life!