General Question

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

How do I stop my elderly mother from donating to every charity that asks for money?

Asked by Call_Me_Jay (13026points) August 6th, 2016

My mother’s phone number and address have spread throughout the “non” profit world over the years, and she receives a constant flow of pleas or money. She lives alone, so I can’t intercept the mail or phone calls.

They all pretend to represent sympathetic causes – fireman, the policeman, the children of wives of policemen and firemen, wildlife, veterans, cancer fighters, etc.

They are almost all virtually criminals, but running a charity which spends all its money on “administrative fees” is not illegal.

I explain this every time I see her. But if someone asks for money, she feels obligated and sends a check. She can’t bear to say no.

She has the same problem with people selling things like lawn service and (unnecessary) home repairs,

One idea is closing her checking account and paying all her bills online. But then they’d probably take her debit card number and clean out the account.

Anyone have similar experience? Also feel free to brainstorm, I welcome full-baked and half-baked ideas.

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20 Answers

Jaxk's avatar

I have ATT for my home phone and they have a feature that blocks solicitations. I was getting 3–5 calls per day asking for money, now I get none. It works pretty well and I haven’t missed any calls from real people. I don’t know if any other vendors have this feature but ATT does.

imrainmaker's avatar

If she has compulsion of donating for a cause then you can introduce her to Real charities which are doing good job out there.

chyna's avatar

Take over her checkbook and pay her bills for her. That way, she doesn’t have access to it.
I did this with my mom. I went over once a week and paid her bills with her at the table with me so she knew what was going out and coming in. She still felt that she was in control, but she really wasn’t.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

The root of the problem maybe her lack of reality to finances. You may have to take over ALL finances, my mother’s elderly cousin ended up in a home and all financial transactions were through my mother. The cousin had a similar issue. She was brilliant when younger, with several thousand shares of AT&T and Xerox.

Judi's avatar

You might try calling Adult Protective Services and see if they have any resources available. If you find out after the fact you might call the charity and ask them to put your mother on their do not call list as well.
Have you registered her on the do not call registry?

LuckyGuy's avatar

YES!!! We had the identical situation! My step-mom in Florida! The scumbags gentlemen would call multiple times per day and she would get multiple letters every day that she felt obligated to answer. She had a drawer full of return address stickers.
She would get multiple requests from the same organization and look alikes.

We had her mail forwarded, closed her checking account and took over her bill paying.
I’m sure the March of Dimes for Children of Left handed, Black, Lesbian, Asian, Firemen are crying.

janbb's avatar

Can you put “Caller ID” on her phone and tell her not to pick up if she doesn’t recognize the number. Will she listen to you?

Are you concerned about disempowering or is that not an issue? If it isn’t, take over her bill paying and checkbook.

rojo's avatar

We had a problem with this as well with my MIL. Fortunately she still had the wherewithall to understand she was being taken advantage of. She no longer donates to anyone who calls her on line. She says please send me the literature on your organization” over and over until they get tired of it.

We also had a problem with magazines such as readers digest sending multiple notices about needing to renew her subscription. This was harder to deal with. She had several years worth of each already paid for. We finally took control of the magazines by having the subscriptions in our name and having them sent to her address. That way when and if she gets a notice it has our name on it and she calls my wife about it and doesn’t send in a single payment.

kritiper's avatar

Become her POA, then take over control of her bank accounts and credit/debit cards. Otherwise, it’s her money to do with as she wishes.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Found a new one today on her credit card bill.

Readers Choice
$299.70 + $8.99 foreign transaction fee

Surprisingly they have a web site. The service is 6 magazines for 1 year. Magazines like Family Circle and Car & Driver which cost less than $12/year.

I wish I had time and money to travel and kick all these predators in the balls.

CWOTUS's avatar

If the bills are on her credit card, then you may be able to enlist the credit issuer’s fraud protection people to rescind the charges and recover the fraudulent “charity” donations.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Thanks everybody, I am very grateful for the comments so far, for the help and just knowing others have had the same frustration.

@janbb Are you concerned about disempowering?

Yes, I am.

I did this with my mom. I went over once a week and paid her bills with her at the table with me so she knew what was going out and coming in. She still felt that she was in control, but she really wasn’t.

I think I have to do something like that.

ibstubro's avatar

Contact your AG. Attorney General, State’s Attorney, or the like.

It’s Illegal, as other users have pointed out.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Is this a way for your elderly mother to get social?
Are they the only people that she socializes with?

These callers are using persuasion techniques knowing fair well that she is lonely.

Get her to her Banker to arrange her bills to be paid automatically first ‘BEFORE” paying out anything else.

Talk to the Banker first about whats going on ..he/she will advise you and then her.

Get other seniors to a meeting or have some representative ( security) talk to them about Fraud and how they target seniors gulibility etc.

Perhaps through these meetings she may meet people that she may make as friends to fill in the empty void that she is probably feeling, in her life.

johnpowell's avatar

As Inspired_2write says this is a very common tactic.

For about two days I did training to do phone surveys for the University of Oregon. These were surveys about the environment used for academic research. All we needed was a few hours of your time but we didn’t want money.

We were instructed that if a person sounded elderly to spend a few hours if needed asking about their grandchildren and really just anything a elderly person would love to talk about. They are lonely… Exploit the shit out of it.

From there go into the tedious interview process. It was fine to get two completed surveys a shift.

But it is clear you need to start to take over your mothers finances. I’m in a similar boat but my mom doesn’t fall for scams. She just forgets to have enough stashed away to cover reoccurring payments and pays like 150 in overdraft fees a month. So soon I will take over and make sure her bills are payed and give her a weekly cash allowance.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

Get her address off of the direct marketing as well as charity mailing lists. Do this by going to . Change her telephone number and don’t tell her. We did that with two elderly aunts who we found had given away tens of thousands of dollars. We gave the new number to people we knew should have it. They never knew they had a new number.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

@chyna THANK YOU, NAILED IT!! This is what I had to do.

“Take over her checkbook and pay her bills for her. That way, she doesn’t have access to it. I did this with my mom. I went over once a week and paid her bills with her at the table with me so she knew what was going out and coming in. She still felt that she was in control, but she really wasn’t.”

I haven’t taken away the checkbook (yet), but twice a week Mom and I talk about her bills and check writing.

She loves the help.

When solicitors call she says, “I’m not in charge of the finances, you need to talk to my son.” And it was her idea, not mine. She called to tell me about the awesome defense she dreamed up!

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Update, good news:

We just moved mom to an apartment in a retirement community. Keeping her home in the suburbs wasn’t really viable because she gave up driving.


Only people we like will get her new phone number and address.

I ported her phone number to a cell phone that I keep. Later I’ll port it to Google Voice so I can get the calls on my phone or let them go to voice mail.

So I can give the new number to good people and not the scum.

Same thing with mail. I placed a USPS change of address to a PO box at my local post office. I’ll sort the good from the bad.

Damn this feels good to foil the bad guys.

chyna's avatar

Good job!!!

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Thanks, @chyna.

And thanks again for the idea of sitting with Mom while paying the bills. She loves having her sons as guards.

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