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Solicitors target the elderly
Nonprofit groups prey on the elderly

Date published: 12/28/2012

IT IS UTTERLY amazing how some nonprofit groups prey on the elderly.

My mother-in-law lived with me for almost a year, and during that time, her mail came here.

My heavens! Every day there was a letter--sometimes two or three--from some nonprofit group soliciting money: food banks, wounded veterans groups, advocates for the blind and solicitations for money to aid research for every disease known to man.

Over the course of a month, there were stacks of letters--I kept them all after she opened them.

The solicitations contained small gifts to entice the recipients to give big bucks. Some even contained money to prime the pump--dollar bills, nickels and pennies that were clearly visible through the plastic.

The idea, of course, was that if this elderly woman got a dollar she would maybe send back $100 or more.

A group based in Wisconsin solicited money for some police chiefs association. The next day there came a solicitation for some fireman's group. Both came from the same address and were printed on the same paper.

I shudder to think how much my 85-year-old mother-in-law, whose mind began to fail about a year before she moved out of her home, sent these people.

I wonder how many older people in the same mental condition send just as much. It must be a gravy train of money.

My mother-in-law's change of address was given only to those who supplied services, such as the phone company, the electric company and her credit-card company.

How this new address--the letters were not forwarded--got in the hands of these nonprofit groups, I do not know. But they got there.

Worse than that, my mother-in-law started getting telephone solicitations at my house. These were not random calls; the solicitors asked specifically for her. How did they get her new number?

One day when she was trying to write out a check to someone who had called, her daughter stopped her.

"But I told the woman I would send her money," my mother-in-law said. "She may sue me if I don't."

How many older people in various stages of dementia think the same thing? How much money do they send to groups that may or may not be legitimate? How much to charities where maybe only 10 percent goes to the actual cause?

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