October 26, 2018 • By Dennis Beaver
“Earlier this year, while out running errands for my 83-year-old parents, “Sandy and Robert,” with whom I live, a solar salesman from Utah-based Mint Solar suddenly showed up at their home, and in no time, they signed a contract for a $20,000 lease financed with a 20-year loan. I only learned of this days later — after the three-day cooling period for in home sales had elapsed and then the system was installed but never hooked up to the Pacific Gas and Electric’s grid. Not only that, but we received a notice of Preliminary Lien from the installer who had not been paid. We’ve tried calling Mint, but get voice mail and no one returns a call. Can you help? Thanks, Terry.”
No research on Mint ever done
Had the elderly couple taken just 60 seconds and Googled Mint Solar, they would have seen these comments: “Misappropriation of funds. Misleading and unqualified company. Lie after lie after lie. They don’t pay their employees! Lack of basic human decency.”
We learned that Mint is a real class act, ripping off the couple’s own salesman $30,000 in unpaid commissions. “I finally had to admit to myself having been duped by management, and there are salespeople and customers across the country in the same situation,” he told us. We confirmed his statement independently.
Our readers are visibly impaired, admitting to having significant memory and reasoning problems which should have been obvious, “But we believed the salesman,” Robert stated. Solar salespeople are famous for having their sense of honesty, ethics and morality surgically removed before being unleashed on America’s elderly.
It’s 3 p.m. What are your parents or grandparents up to?
If you do not protect them from themselves, who will before it’s too late? And, just what can you do? Stay with us, as Southfield Michigan-based Certified Financial Planner Sandra D. Adams – who also holds a Masters in gerontology – sets out a strategy for children and grandchildren to help steer their aging family members out of harm’s way.
Isolation leads to being scammed
“When adult children or grandchildren, like your reader, discover what happened, they will often yell, “Why did you do this? Why did you let the person in?” The answer is often found in one word: Isolation. Even when family are all in the same city, our nation’s aging population is more isolated than at any other time in our history,” Adams observes, adding:
“The need to talk with someone, to have human contact with a person who appears to care about their welfare, all of this leads to being scammed. But research shows when family maintain frequent and close contact, they will be phoned before that contract is signed.”
Make mom and dad aware of what’s out there
Will readers who like to be accused of being gullible or stupid, please raise your hands. Hmm, no one?
“The same applies in helping your aging relatives to see what dangers are out there. One way to do this by referring to a newspaper article, or what you ‘heard’ happened to a friend’s father, in an informative tone of voice. Remember, you want them to buy into the idea of running these kinds of decisions by family first. Without saying it directly, you are encouraging them to make sure their antennas are up, aware of potential traps.”
“In fact, you can encourage asking for your recommendations by asking their advice, such as, ‘Gramps,’ I am considering about doing this. What do you think?”
“By expressing respect for his opinion, showing that you are vulnerable and open to asking for his advice, he will be more comfortable in bouncing decisions off of you when it is his turn.”
Current scams target new Medicare cards
New Medicare cards are being issued without using Social Security numbers, reducing the chance of identity theft.
“Con artists are contacting the elderly and falsely insist on obtaining proper identification before the new card is sent out. The fear of not getting the new card leads to revealing all sorts of personal information. As this is pure gold, the crook opens a bank account in the elderly person’s name, establishes direct deposit with Social Security and steals their money.”
There is a time for ‘The Conversation’
Working with the elderly as a financial planner, Adams sees the results of parents and grandparents who seek to maintain control by refusing to keep their responsible children aware of what they own and where it is.
“The key is to ask for their help so that you will be there to help them, and keep in close contact. Prevention is the operative word,” she concludes.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.