My mother-in-law has been scammed. What do we need to do?

My MIL is an elderly widow that has fallen victim to scammers who have convinced her that she has won a Publisher’s Clearing House award and they will be at her house on Saturday to change her life. She put a check in the mail to them today (It’s Thanksgiving but she took the letter to the post office). I don’t know how much the check was for.

The scammers appear to know her address, phone number and will soon have her routing and checking account number. My BIL will make sure that she calls the bank in the morning to cancel the check.

What other steps do we need to take?

And here’s what I think of the situation.

I’d say notify the bank that her account/routing is compromised and see what they can do.
Call the credit reporting services and explain the situation.

Every check you write has your bank account and routing number on it so I don’t know what threat anyone poses to your funds by obtaining them. Same with your home address and phone number.
If anything she will just be out the amount she wrote the check for. If she just put it in the mail recently she should be able to put a stop payment on it through her bank.

I considered that aspect too (people with your account info) but I don’t give unethical people checks so I’ve never really thought about what someone could do with it. On an intuitive level, giving your bank info to an unscrupulous person seems like a bad idea. Plus, I don’t know what other information she might have provided them over the phone. I think that she’s embarrassed by the events and may not be completely forthcoming with us.

If your MIL is okay with it, consider having you or someone else who is willing, be a go between.
Delete any direct email account to her. Have an account for her that is actually directed to only you. Scan the emails and only forward ones that are safe to her account, that is only known to you. You or someone else is the spam filter. Make sure her PC only has the filtered email account in it. So if she sends any email in response from items that appear on her PC, the replies will only go to the filtered account that you see.
Also, if she is willing. Delete any banking and personal vulnerable information from her PC. You will have to be go between for many things in this case. It is a big responsibility and she may be giving up a lot of privacy to a designated person.

I actually did set up such a system for my mother when she decided to try going on a computer. But it turned out she did not bother to use it at all. It didn’t offer her any more connectivity or use than she already was comfortable with. Now I think it would be required in many instances, even for her.

If she hasn’t done so already, she should freeze her credit with the three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.

I’m not sure about that. I had a check go astray once. When I went to the bank to stop payment, they insisted that I close the account and open a new one. They told me that anyone who gets my account and routing numbers could help themselves to my money. (WTF?) So if the check is lost and I don’t know who got their hands on it, I need to worry about that. No, it doesn’t make sense to me either. But they said that.