Junk mail, spam emails and telemarketing calls can be a heavy burden for older adults.
As people age, their natural ability to make decisions begins to decline. The pile of mail in the mailbox becomes difficult to sort. The offer that is too good to be true gets harder to turn down. The dining room table is awash with sweepstakes, catalogs and credit card offers. The phone buzzes with unsolicited texts. The senior is getting coupons by mail, another sorting task. This situation becomes even more difficult if that person has some form of dementia.
While most junk mail is just annoying, some of it can be fraudulent. Fake charities ask for money. Credit card impostors seek personal information. The unsuspecting elder can easily become a victim of identity theft or another form of fraud.
If you are a caregiver trying to prevent junk mail and other unsolicited marketing, here are some tips for protecting your senior and getting rid of junk mail.
Sort the mail
When you keep getting junk mail, your first impulse might be to throw it away or recycle it.
After all, it is junk. However, if you want to make a serious effort to prevent junk mail, you will want to sort it for a couple of weeks.
You need to figure out who the worst offenders are; who is sending the most unsolicited mail. It may be that several businesses are sending mail using the same marketing company. Getting your elder’s name off of the marketing list will remove a large number of junk mailings.
Some tips for this part of the process include:
- Sort the mail every day into two boxes, one for important mail and one for junk.
- If the person you are caring for is getting coupons by mail and uses them, you can put them in a third box.
- Keep the junk mail box in another room so there is less confusion.
- Make a list of companies that are sending junk mail on a regular basis.
Contact the sender
This step takes the most effort, which is why very few people stop getting junk mail. It takes some work to get off mailing lists. Some senders, such as most catalogs, will normally have a contact number that you can call. You need to be firm in telling them that you no longer want mailings. They need to take your elder’s name off the mailing list.
Once you have removed your elder’s name from a catalog’s mailing list, make sure to get old catalogs out of the house. If your elder places an order, it will place his or her name back on the list. You will have to go through the process again to remove it or they will keep getting junk mail.
Another tool for this effort is adding your elder’s name to the “Do Not Mail” list of various direct marketing companies and associations. Most of these groups give you the option to choose what sort of mail you receive from them as well as opting out of their mailings altogether. Even after you have taken your elder’s name off their mailing lists, it may still take several weeks for the change to take effect. If you are trying to get rid of unwanted phone calls, register your elder for the national “Do Not Call” list maintained by the federal government.
If necessary, report the sender
After the steps above, you should be noticing a decrease in the amount of junk mail that is arriving at your elder’s home.
Pay attention to the junk mail that does arrive. If the legitimate direct mailing companies have stopped, some of what you are seeing may be fraudulent. Report the sender to the post office so they can investigate any issues. They can be a powerful ally in the struggle to get rid of junk mail.
Dealing with unwanted email is a more difficult situation. Email addresses are constantly being passed back and forth by companies, making it harder to remove from lists. Legitimate marketers will have an option to opt out on the bottom of marketing emails. Sometimes, the best you can do is rely on a good spam filter.
Protect personal information
The person in your care needs to be reminded frequently not to share personal information over the phone or on a computer. This is one of the most common sources of elder fraud. If someone is asking for a social security number or other private information, tell them to have the caller call back at a time when you are around to help.
A good shredder is a wise investment in preventing elder fraud. Many seniors do not realize the damage that can be done when criminals steal credit card applications from the recycle bin. Accounts might be started in the senior’s name. At the very least, the elder’s credit score will be affected by the false application.
Recycled junk mail can also be a source of information about the elder. That little bit of extra information might give legitimacy to a dishonest person, making your elder more likely to share more valuable information over the phone. By shredding junk mail, you stop the easy flow of information.
A trip to the mailbox or a ringing phone does not have to be overwhelming for a loved one. You can help your elder focus only on the correspondence that is important and necessary. With a little time and effort, you will make sure he or she will stop getting junk mail.