Telemarketers Prey on Seniors

Jamieson Mackay

Jamieson Mackay, Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor

My mother called me recently to tell me that she had signed up for an extended vehicle protection plan that she thought was only $200 (first red flag: if it sounds too good to be true it is). A sales agent had called her and she agreed over the phone and gave her credit card information. She has since come to find out that the plan was $200 a month until it was paid off, totaling about $3,000. She knew better, but said she felt pressured and did it to get off the phone (second red flag: never give your payment information out over the phone unless you initiated the call). This is a common issue we hear about with our senior members and unfortunately sales people prey on the trusting nature of seniors.

The main problem in this case is that my mother had a stroke a year ago and hasn’t been driving, which means she was sold something she didn’t even need. We always reinforce the idea with our team members that we won’t sell something the member doesn’t need and only recommend things that will improve our members’ financial lives (see our service promises). Too many businesses out there don’t adhere to the same ideals and find seniors, such as my mom, an easy sale.

I have a power of attorney for mom to handle certain things for her, so I called the company and was put in touch with a supervisor who gave me cancellation instructions. Hopefully this is the last I write about this specific incident, but there are several take a ways that this example reinforces:

  • We must look out for our senior family members. My mom is a smart lady who I never thought would have done this. She usually calls me to discuss decisions like this. She felt really badly about the whole thing, but I assured her it was ok and that it was taken care of. Basically, we can’t make assumptions that our older family and friends won’t do these types of things.
  • A power of attorney (POA) can be a valuable instrument in helping our aging family members take care of financial and other issues. Without the POA, I would not have been able to help mom in this case. She would have had to deal with the entire issue herself, which would have been even worse and added to the bad feelings she already had from this instance.
  • Never give out payment information over the phone if you didn’t initiate the call. If someone calls you and you are interested in their product or charity, ask where you can pay online or where you can call back after checking into the business or charity further. We’ve seen too many incidents where members have been scammed into giving their payment information over the phone to scammers, businesses and fake charities.

In this case it was a legitimate product that was sold, but in a manner that I find repulsive. The sales person that sold this to my mom is the type that gives sales people a bad name.