There Are Times When You Have To Intervene
This guide is intended for family members of victims in complete denial. It is not intended for scam victims, but if you read it you can also see how desperate you may be making your own family members as they see the impact that scams are or were having on you – if you are currently a victim of a scam please read our 3 Steps Guide for New Victims.
Almost every day, our organization is contacted by desperate family members seeking advice.
They have an elderly parent (typically) who is involved in a scam – romance scams, lotto scams, phone scams, etc. The elderly are particularly susceptible to sams for many reasons – from loneliness to a need to be polite and more. But the impact of this is that they believe completely the fake stories and fantasies spun by the scammers.
In situations like this, we recommend first going through the process of understanding what is happening and attempting interventions – in other words, treating them as an adult. Here are our Guides to help you through this process – but it sometimes fails, and further below we will discuss other safety measures you can take.
Guides For Family Members In Denial
A Note About Legality
We are not attorneys. We are not providing you with legal advice of any kind. If you have questions about the legality of anything you do, we suggest that you contact a licensed family law attorney or solicitor to explore your concerns.
When It Is Not Enough
You have reached that point where you recognize that you are not getting through. Now what do you do?
You have options and there is technology that can help support you.
As we discuss in other guides, you may want to explore several options, from powers of attorney to financial controls to restrict the damage being caused. After all, the victims continued belief in the scam and sending money to the scammer will affect the whole family, because many such victims give away their retirements, their homes, and place themselves in bankruptcy, and will then need the financial support of the family.
If you have questions about what is right or wrong, simply consider what you would do if this was a physical ailment?
You Have Options
Most of the elderly are not technologically sophisticated and need help solving basic tech issues. This creates the opportunity o help them by restricting their access to the scammer and services that enable the scam.
There are countless options for products and services that you can employ to help control access and restrict, we will go through each major area. You may not be comfortable doing these yourself and may need additional assistance from a local technician. In the United States, you can get help with both internet devices and phones at your local BestBuy stores, but there are also numerous other local tech stops that can help you wherever you may be.
The Home Router
Connection to the Internet at home is through a home router that connects the Internet Service Provider to your devices – most of the time this is also the WiFi routers providing connection to tablets, TVs, phones, laptops, etc. Routers have significant capabilities to control the security of internet access.
Things you can do on most routers:
- Set hours of access.
- Set up a blocklist – domains (includes web services & platforms) and addresses that are blocked by the routers – they cannot be accessed by any device using the router.
- Set up a whitelist – opposite of the block list, of websites and services that are permitted.
- Logs activity – so you can see any attempts to bypass security.
- Alerts & notifications – notify when security violations occur.
If you have children of your own, this is also recommended to help keep them safe!
Not all routers have the same capabilities, and we do not provide technical support for them. You should first find out the brand and model of the router and search the internet for instructions to perform the actions you want to take. Once it is done, the victim will simply not know what is happening, they will just know that there is a tech problem. It will be up to you to sell it – to convince them it is just an internet mystery. But be careful to change the router login and password to prevent circumvention – meaning that they cannot call someone to fix it.
Here are example information that may help you better understand the tech setups involved. As we say, you may need a technician to help! you with this:
Outside WiFi Access
Configuring the home router is essential, but it can be defeated by taking their device to a public WiFi. One way to do this is to install a VPN connection that prevents access to the internet except through the VPN. But you also want features for Blacklisting and Whitelisting to prevent access to dangerous websites and platforms.
Information to review on this:
Controls On Their Laptop, Computer, Phone, or Tablet
You will also want to install child-safety control software on their device that will further block access to the scammers and dangerous websites and platforms.
The problem is going to be how much you restrict – what do you want them to have access to, such as Facebook. But you can control Facebook separately, and it does have some controls that can help – see below.
You should note that you really want to block almost every social media platform for their safety (perhaps with the exception fo Facebook). Almost all of them are going to be impossible to keep your family member safe from scammers.
Here are articles on the use and selection of child safety software that can help.
You have another option too, namely their smartphone.
You can replace it with a flip phone, which will eliminate internet access. But the problem is that you will lose all control over what calls come in. This is also more draconian and may result in rebellion from your family member.
We recommend that you leave the smartphone in place, but add the parental control apps to restrict it to safe contacts.
In essence, you are looking for child internet controls – it is the same problem. The whole purpose of child controls is to help keep the people in your family safe if they are not capable of making their own safety decisions or understanding the issues. This may seem very dictatorial, but this is the safety of your loved one you are dealing with. The choice is yours.
You may also want to consider a senior monitoring and support solution. Here are a few we think you might explore:
We are not a technology provider, nor are we able to recommend any of the above – that is not our role. We are here to help you see the issues and suggest directions. Therefore we do not recommend any specific product, nor are we compensated for listing them.
Tell Us How You Did It?
When you implement a solution, please write to us and share how this was done? Tell us what software or hardware was used, what controls you put in place (just the general approach), and how you convinced the victim to permit this? This can help us better help others in similar situations.
See below for our information on how to properly report scams. Reporting matters every time! Scammers are being arrested in large numbers, but still, most people (less than 5%) are not reporting these crimes – this is a big part of why it is out of control. Do you part – do your duty – report criminals!