A Today’s Caregiver Thought Leader Interview
Beating the Fraudsters and Scammers as Senior Family Caregivers
A Today’s Caregiver Thought Leader Interview
Ken Clipperton & Gary Barg
What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the interview.
Gary Barg: Ken, one of the greatest challenges we face as caregivers is that there’s so many fraudsters and scammers coming after our loved ones.
What’s the scope of the fraud problem that our senior adults are facing?
Ken Clipperton: Well, it’s a huge problem. There are many avenues for fraud. And one of the major ones is the telephone. The FBI internet crime center keeps track of statistics about this, and their 2020 report on elder fraud said that senior adults were defrauded out of more than $1 billion and the average loss was between 9 and 10 thousand dollars and that more than 2 thousand people were defrauded out of more than 100 thousand dollars. Now that’s stuff that actually got reported to the FBI.
More recently, Truecaller, which is one of the more popular apps for managing calls and blocking them, their US spam and scam report for the most recent 12 months, pegged the losses at almost $30 billion. Now that would not be just seniors, but all callers. That’s almost 60 million Americans, (23% of Americans).
I did the math on that and it averages out to more than $100 per person in the USA that lost money to criminal scammers. So, it’s a huge problem, and unfortunately appears to be a growing one in spite of various legislative efforts to try to curb that.
Gary Barg: In what ways, specifically, are these fraudsters and scammers hurting our families?
Ken Clipperton: First of all is the financial harm. But also, the fear of losing money to the scammers makes folks hesitant to pick up the phone. And so, there’s a twin to the fraud problem, and it’s isolation.
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that isolation is harmful to humans. The fraudsters are causing isolation by making people afraid to pick up their phone; afraid of becoming a crime victim; and a fear of losing their independence.
When I first started researching these solutions, it was for one of my wife’s friends whose parents were living in their own apartment. Her dad was beginning to have some dementia issues and by the time they realized what was going on, they’d been scammed out of a significant portion of their life savings.
Before I was able to find a technology-based solution, one of her siblings had moved them from their independent apartment into that sibling’s home and felt forced to take away their telephone to prevent future losses from fraud.
He couldn’t help it, and the scammers are very tricky. I’ve come close a couple times myself to getting tricked.
For the parents, all of a sudden, now they don’t have a phone. Their friends can’t reach them directly. They have to call the son or daughter if they want to make a call. They have to go ask to use the phone. So, there’s a daily reminder to them of, “I can’t be trusted to have a telephone.” It’s harmful. This was emotionally damaging due to the isolation that it causes.
As well, I learned that one of the major causes of falls is a senior adult rushing to answer the phone. That hadn’t occurred to me before. They want to get there while it’s still ringing and of course, much of the time, the call is a robocall or a scammer trying to reach them.
Gary Barg: How are you helping solve these heartbreaking challenges with Caregiver Technology Solutions?
Ken Clipperton: My goal is to defeat both isolation and fraud with technology solutions that I’ve identified and adopted. These are things that I helped my own parents with and since then, other friends and relatives. Which is to be able to stay connected safely and age in place with dignity.
Gary Barg: You are so correct. I believe so much in the value of dignity, self-worth and even cognition for our loved ones.
Ken Clipperton: Yes, that’s right, isolation is harmful to cognitive ability; no question about it. Maintaining those connections is important.
The solutions I’ve identified are commercially available. I wasn’t creating things from scratch. It is about identifying technologies that are able to be configured in such a way as to be really useful for family caregivers and senior adults, especially those living with dementia. Although, as tricky as these scammers are, all of us are at risk.
And so, for the caregivers, I created online courses and implementer’s guides to step them through the process of configuring each solution in an optimal way to protect their loved one according to their current level of need.
Gary Barg: Okay, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Talk to me about some of the specifics of these solutions that you’ve put together at CTS.
Ken Clipperton: Great. One of them is simple, and I call it connected family photo frame.
It’s just taking an Amazon Fire tablet, and loading particular slide show software on it, called FOTOO, that’s available in the Amazon store, and then configuring it so as soon as they turn on the tablet, the show starts automatically.
If they unplug it, it can stop, or not. If they want to, they can take a Zoom call or check things on the web or even watch a movie. When they’re done using the tablet and plug it in, the software restarts the slideshow.
For me, I don’t live with either my folks or my in-laws, but I’ve always been the family techy and finding something that could be easily supported remotely was important.
So, I actually put this together as Christmas presents for my mom and in-laws. Essentially the mechanism was, I created a shared Google Photos photo album and then invited family members to join that album and then contribute photos. It was that easy.
One of my nieces, who had been a professional photographer earlier in her life started crying. She said, “Because when I took pictures, I said I should print a copy and send it to Grandma,” and she said, “I never did.”
But once she had this, she could take a photo, hit the button to the shared album, chose Grandma Betty’s name, and she knew fifteen minutes later, it’s going to show up on the screen in her room.
At the hospice house where Mom spent the last months of her life, one of the hospice nurses said, “I’m going to make my daughter figure out how to do this.”
And right now, I’m offering that course for free. This is using a commercially available technology, and now I provide guidance that you can get from Caregiver Technology Solutions to implement that.
Not only does it make sharing easier, it became a almost a private Facebook group for our family because everyone who has contributed gets a notification whenever anyone adds a photo. Any Android or Amazon Fire tablet can run this software.
We have one running by our microwave right now that has that same photo show. We all could have those in our homes. So, it became like a shared connected family photo album. Really cool and again, very inexpensive to implement.
The photo frame also helped protect Mom from fraud. Before this, she was constantly going into Facebook to see what was going on with the kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. When she had this, those photos just showed up. She didn’t have to put herself at the risk of fraud by being online with those other tools.
Gary Barg: Let’s dig deeper. What other products and solutions are available?
Ken Clipperton: What I think the most important solution I’m offering right now is The CTS Safe at Home Phone™ service, built on top of Ooma Telo 4G.
If you’re familiar with home voiceover IP systems, Ooma is one of the top-rated solutions for the last nine years. They’ve got hundreds of thousands of lines in place.
What made it suitable as a caregiver solution is that it can be managed remotely via either a web interface or a smart app on the phone.
The main benefit, in terms of blocking fraudsters, is it can identify four different classes of calls coming in; ones that are anonymous, ones that are known robocallers, ones that are known scammers and suspected scammers and then calls that look legitimate.
You can determine right in the web interface what happens to each of those classes of calls. Do I let them through and ring the phone? Do I send them to voicemail? Do I give them a “you’ve been blocked” message? Or do I send them to ‘ring forever hell’, where for the spammer it just rings and rings, but never actually rings Mom’s phone. The normal way I configure that is send all the known bad people to just ring-ring-ring.
At the most protective level, you can only let the people on Mom’s contact list through to ring the phone, and then send what looks like legitimate calls to voicemail.
Then I, as a caregiver get a notification that there is a new voicemail for Mom. I can listen to it, I can actually add that person right to Mom’s contact list if appropriate and I can call that person back and say, “Hey, Aunt Ruth, I saw you tried to call Mom. Great. Please give her another call, and that’ll ring through to her now.”
With the Ooma solution I chose, it actually uses a 4G cellular signal to carry the calls. And so anywhere you have a power plug and a 4G cellular signal, you can take your home telephone, phone number and phone device.
When Mom goes to rehab, you can unplug the system from home and plug it in at rehab. Coming out of rehab, if you move in with a child for a few weeks, just plug it in at their house.
Gary Barg: And you have the security of it being Ooma.
Ken Clipperton: Correct. It’s a widely deployed, very popular solution. You can buy it at Best Buy and Amazon online and eBay and all kinds of other places. But if people buy it through me, I also include a code to unlock the implementer’s course and guide at no additional charge.
There are other solutions I’ve identified that can even be more restrictive, like the GrandPad. The only people that can email, text or call you, have to have that specific app on their phone and be in your contact list. For some families, a solution like that will make sense, but the is was one that let mom keep her familiar telephone and stay in connection with her friends while dramatically reducing her risk of fraud.
Even as a person who has 25 years of telecommunications and IT management, it took me hours and hours of trying to find something that would work as a caregiver solution. So, once I found these solutions, I said I’d like to diffuse that knowledge.
As I started contacting the solution providers, it was actually Ooma that came back. The VP of marketing at Ooma appreciated what I was doing. He actually had close family members that had been scammed. He came back and set up what became a national partner agreement with CTS for the USA and Canada. He said he didn’t have anyone else on his team that cares as much as you do. And we can’t dedicate someone full time to this. But we’d like to enable you to foster a network and market it to caregivers all across the USA and Canada.
Gary Barg: Great. That leads to talking about your network of independent caregiver techs. That’s fascinating. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Ken Clipperton: Basically, I want to enable people that are already helping others to be able to do well while doing good.
Through my agreement with Ooma, for someone who would implement these solutions for others once it’s been in service for 90 days, Ooma will send me a check, and through me, send $70.00 for each of those systems implemented.
And on top of that, they can either charge or not charge for their assistance they’re providing directly to folks.
I think it’s a great fit for people that already are caregivers themselves or are home tech services companies that provide tech support to Wi-Fi, laptops and desktops, to add this as another income stream for them, where they could charge for the implementation services, and earn a commission check come through me, from Ooma, for those systems.
That’s the basic model at this point. I hope to identify many more solutions along the way. Because different solutions fit different environments; but to be able to help the families in their communities with the most appropriate solution for them.
Learn More About Caregiver Technology Solutions
Fraud and isolation are major problems affecting senior adults, especially those suffering from health problems such as declining hearing or cognitive ability. Caregiver Technology Solutions helps family caregivers and their loved ones stay connected safely at home and when transitioning to new living situations.
Please visit our website to learn more about cost-effective technologies that can reduce the risk of being defrauded of one’s life savings without becoming isolated from family and friends.