6 Call Blocking Features that Help You Stay Connected Safely

Scammers are becoming so tricky that almost anyone might fall into their traps. People with cognitive limitations or dementia are especially at risk of losing significant amounts of money to the scammers. This article identifies six call blocking features that can help you and your loved ones stay connected safely.

Everyone I talk to says they frequently receive phone calls from scammers, and most have a friend or family member that has been victimized by these criminals.

Last week, yet another friend of mine reported that scammers had tricked her dad into giving out sensitive information. Again.

She contacted me for some advice about better protecting her dad from the crooks. This article is part of my response to that friend.

Ironically, the scammer claimed to be from a credit card company’s anti-fraud department. They said they were calling to verify whether the purchase of an expensive new iPhone on their credit card in a faraway state was legitimate.

Calls like this can trip up anyone. People who get tricked by scammers should be angry at the criminals, not themselves.

Call Blocking is the Best Defense Against Scammers

So how can we protect ourselves and our at-risk loved ones from these scams? Especially for loved ones dealing with dementia, it is not enough to tell them not to give sensitive information to callers.

Call blocking technologies are available that can substantially reduce the likelihood of losing money to criminals. These technologies also reduce or eliminate the annoying robocalls that plague our phones so that when the phone does ring, it is likely to be someone you actually want to talk to.

Many companies offer call blocking apps for smartphones. The Federal Trade Commission’s most recent guidance for consumers acknowledges the existence and utility of these call blocking and call labeling applications.

PC Magazine published a good article about the robocall and scam caller problem. It covers the iPhone’s built-in options for restricting calls and briefly describes several well-regarded call blocker apps.

I did some preliminary testing of a few of these apps but not an in-depth evaluation and comparison. Eventually, I plan to create a buyer’s guide for call blocking apps. Until then, I have formulated a list of the key features that make an app especially useful for family caregivers and their loved ones, enabling them to stay connected safely.

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Six Call Blocking Features that Help You Stay Connected Safely

Here are the key features I look for in a call blocking app as a family caregiver. Many of these apps have a free version, but you generally need to upgrade to the paid version to enable some of these features.

1. The ability to block phone calls and text messages. Both calls and texts are common attack vectors for scammers. Ideally, the app has an option that uses your contact list to allow only contacts to ring your phone or send texts to the phone. This is especially important if the phone user is at risk due to dementia.

2. The ability to completely block known scammers rather than sending them to voicemail. As noted in the PC Magazine article, some apps go beyond blocking to actively engage scammers in simulated calls. This keeps the scammer on the line as long as possible, thus reducing the number of potential victims the scammer can get to that day.

3. The ability to notify a device other than the loved one’s phone of new voicemail messages. This way, the family caregiver knows there is a new voicemail to review.

4. The ability for a family caregiver to check and delete voicemail messages from a device other than the loved one’s phone, such as by logging into the account via a web browser. This way, the caregiver can listen to, and act on, voicemails as necessary. This is useful for day-to-day communications management and protecting loved ones from scammers.

The opportunity to manage voicemail remotely is important because some scammers are purposefully skipping the phone call and going straight to voicemail. Thus, they can quickly push recorded voicemail messages out, and they don’t have to hire as many people. Apparently, even the crooks are having trouble finding enough workers.

Another reason some scammers are going straight to voicemail is that doing so may allow them to skirt laws restricting certain types of phone calls. They argue that the laws don’t apply to them because they are not ringing anyone’s phone.

5. The ability for a family caregiver to remotely review call logs, both inbound and outbound, from a device other than the loved one’s phone. This capability is helpful for day-to-day communications management and minimizing losses to scammers.

Outbound calls to people not on the contact list or to financial institutions may be a response to a scammer that reached the loved one by some means other than a phone call. Being able to remotely review call logs enables caregivers to know about and act on this information.

6. The ability to manage contacts from a device other than the loved one’s phone. This way, the caregiver can add, delete, or update contacts anytime from anywhere.

I hope you find this article helpful in protecting yourself and your loved ones from scammers and annoying robocalls.

Ken Clipperton is the founder of Caregiver Technology Solutions, which helps family caregivers and their loved ones stay connected safely at home and when transitioning to new living situations. Ken has more than 25 years leadership experience implementing and managing IT and telecommunications systems in higher education, as well as personal experience helping his parents through multiple transitions. The technologies Ken implemented enabled them to avoid isolation and fraud. He wants to help other families experience those same benefits.

Caregiving Community Planning Ahead

Legacy: Projects to Celebrate and Preserve What’s Most Important

When people think of “legacy” they often focus on money, property or major accomplishments. But legacy, on a deeper level, is the most personal of subjects. It’s all about what matters most to the individual. If you have a friend or family member who is thinking about their legacy, or if you yourself would like to explore the topic, read on for some ideas and inspiration from the Farewelling editors. 

Collecting Video Tributes After a Loss

One great way to honor a loved one’s legacy is to create a beautiful video montage of family and friends telling stories and sharing memories about the person they’re honoring. You can organize this yourself or use one of the new companies making it easier, such as 

The process: invite your family, friends, colleagues, and anyone else you’d like to make a short recording on their phone or camera. After editing, or using a software tool to put the videos together, you can share the final compilation at a family gathering or by posting it online or sending it to whomever you like. A group video tribute can be a great element at a virtual event or an in-person remembrance.

Creating a Legacy Project

A legacy project is a physical creation that shares your personal message. It can involve life events, biography information, personal accomplishments, wisdom and knowledge, philosophy or faith traditions, hopes, and dreams.

Choose a medium that speaks to your personality and preferences. The goal: share what meant most to you.

Journaling Is An Easy Way to Share Your Legacy.

Document your life story through the written word. Journaling can be a therapeutic way to work through thoughts and emotions and record these things on paper. Or you might prefer a digital journal, which can be as simple as writing your story in a word processor or using an online service such as Storyworth. Either way, here are some tips:

  • Document a list of values that are most important to you.
  • Share significant life accomplishments and why they matter in your experience.
  • What are your wishes and dreams for the future?
  • Do you have any life lessons or advice you would like to share with the family?
  • Write down major life milestones and details about those events.

Scrapbooking: Tell the Story of Your Life Through Photos, and Other Captured Memories

Scrapbooking is a lovely way to display pictures, papers, postcards and other memorabilia from your most treasured memories. If you like working with your hands, it might be enjoyable to pull out the colored paper, stamps, and other crafty items. Or, there are many low-cost digital scrapbooking tools you can use online. 

Which Legacy Project Is Right For You?

Sometimes getting started on a project like this is the hardest part, but don’t let that stop you. Pick a legacy project that speaks to you, then dedicate just an hour or two a week to work on it yourself, or with your loved one. Over time it will start to take shape, and you’ll have a treasure to share with your loved ones that they will cherish for generations to come.

Karen Bussen

Farewelling is the revolutionary online platform transforming how we think about–and plan for–funerals and end of life. Join them on social media @myfarewelling for more.

Caregiving Community

Caregiver Survival During the Holidays

The holidays can be a delightful time of year. They can also be filled with anxiety.

Holidays often add stress, especially if you are a caregiver who is already feeling pulled in too many directions. The pressure of trying to make the perfect holiday can be immense, and quite frankly, who has those “Perfect Publix holiday commercial” holidays? Families coming together are not always the happiest of situations.

Here are five simple tips to make the holidays better for you, your loved one and your family.

  1. Simplify: When it comes to decorations, choose a few items that are most significant, have meaning for you and your loved ones. You might ask a friend to help decorate.
  2. Keep Meals Simple: Purchase all or part of meals at a local grocery store or restaurant — either fully cooked or ready for you to cook at home. If you prefer home cooked, share the cooking with other family members.
  3. Reduce the number of holiday activities: Limit your time away from home to match the comfort level of your loved one. Choose which events to attend based on which would be the simplest, least exhausting and most enjoyable for the person you care for — and for you.
  4. Visiting Family: You may need to prepare family members in advance for any changes or decline in your loved one’s physical or mental status. This will save many unnecessary “well meaning” discussions on the care you are providing. (Siblings and other family members tend to swoop in and have definite opinions when they may not have been involved.)
  5. Focus On the Meaning: When spending time with your loved ones, focus on celebrating the meaning of the holiday you observe. This is what really matters, and what you will remember in the future.

Do you exchange gifts? Let’s face it, most of us don’t really need more stuff. As a matter of fact, I hear so many of you saying the stuff just adds more stress!

This year, try something different. Create your own “Wish List” of gifts that you need. Here are some ideas that have come to my mind after listening to the needs of caregivers.

Coupon for Respite: How about creating a coupon booklet offering to stay with your loved one so you can get away? Offers to provide care, transportation, run errands, buy groceries, etc. can be added. If your family can’t do this, suggest they purchase a few hours of care from a home care agency or assisted living facility. Many assisted living facilities offer short term respite care.

House Cleaning Service: A gift certificate for a house cleaning service is a great gift.

Coupon for a Spa Day: A little pampering can go a long way to ease caregiver stress. A massage is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

Go ahead, ask for these special gifts from your friends and loved ones! You will be glad you did.

I hope all of you will think about how to best care for yourselves during this frantic season. The ideas above should help with that.