Scam-Blocking Debit Card Protects Grandma's Money from Shady Characters

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It's no news that senior citizens are a favorite target of scammers, shady salespeople and even relatively legitimate marketers, because, sadly, they can be fairly easy marks. Well, a new prepaid debit card aims to protect the elderly from such dangers by giving their adult children control over their spending.

The True Link Card is a new prepaid Visa card that comes with various fraud-protection measures build in to help you prevent your older family members from blowing all their retirement money. If grandma has a bad habit of buying stuff from infomercials or telemarketers, for instance, you can set the card to automatically reject such purchases. In other cases, you can set purchases to automatically trigger a text message to the person who set up the account, giving them the option to accept or decline the charges. And it offers a growing database of what it calls "problematic merchants" -- that is, scammers.

True Link's young founder, serial entrepreneur Kai Stinchcombe, tells Fast Company that he came up with the idea for the card after discovering that his grandmother was writing four checks a day to fraudulent charities. "Monitoring my grandmother's finances has required endless hours and countless difficult conversations," he says on the company's website.

The TrueLink has an annual fee of $20 after the first year, which is unusual for a credit card that doesn't offer rewards points.

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But in this case, it's easy to see how the card pays for itself by keeping money in your elderly relatives' bank accounts -- and by saving you the time you would otherwise spend trying to keep their spending in check.

And it also helps protect grandma from spending that isn't fraudulent, but is still ill-advised. Because it's a prepaid debit card and not a credit card, you don't have to worry about her racking up huge balances. You can also set limits on transaction amounts and ATM withdrawals, or set the card so it can only be used for in-person transactions. And the company is always on the lookout for companies that use shady fine print to trick unassuming shoppers into buying more than they need.

If your elderly relatives are cognitively impaired, or they're simply not adept at spotting scams, then this could be a great way to protect their nest egg from being chipped away by bad purchases.

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.