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Navigating Health and Aging: Junk mail

We all get some degree of junk mail or bulk mailings. This happens when lists of our demographics are purchased by those seeking specific groups, such as households with children and households with a specific age range or yearly income range. This is big business for the companies packaging the lists and mailing options. It is also a money-maker for the United States Postal Service.

As a result, the exploitation of the growing aging population is on the rise.

The request for donations to various groups is circulated to this targeted age range in hopes that recipients will contribute to a cause, although in many situations, the cause is actually a scam.

More and more, I am seeing an incredible amount of exploitation of the aging population taking place via junk mail scams. This includes anything from sweepstakes ... to winning prizes for time shares ... to solicitations for many organizations. Here is the problem: While you and I may throw away junk mail, aging people often lose the ability to identify the trash (junk mail) from legitimate mail. Many family members will notice early signs of dementia after seeing a loved one's checkbook register filled with donations to a whole host of organizations.

I have witnessed an unbelievable amount of junk mail that has gathered in my clients' homes. For those who already have been writing checks to a specific organization, often that check amount increases. If you have any concerns regarding the cognitive ability of your loved one, then I highly recommend discussing a plan with them to monitor their accounts for any exploitation.

Some families have decided to arrange for online banking and then they can check in as a safe guard. Other options are to place your loved ones on the do not call list in order to end phone solicitation. Also, you can register with the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service to decrease the amount of junk mail that is delivered to the home. Go to http://www.dmachoice.org or mail a request to P.O. Box 642 Carmel, NY 10512.

In addition, you can opt out of pre-approved credit offers by calling 1-888-5-opt-out.

As an added security, you can request that charities of your choice and magazines do not share any of your or your loved one's personal information.

Closely scrutinizing the mail coming into and out of the house is imperative. Many families discover that Mom and Dad have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in scams that drain their bank accounts of necessary funds for their own care, and it is too late. I recently observed the mail leaving a severely impaired client's house with donations for the Republican Party, Democratic Party, multiple politicians, a Swiss company that offered very beautiful return envelopes for Harry Potter good luck crystals and Miss Maybelline. Obviously, he was not in need of Miss Maybelline. The message is clear: Exploitation is unconscionable, but nevertheless, it takes place by those individuals or organizations looking for vulnerable groups to target. As always, the best defense is to be informed, diligent and proactive to decrease the likelihood of your loved becoming a target.

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