Written by Ari Parker — Updated: Thursday, February 23, 2023
Scams targeting seniors are a significant problem and are becoming more common as the population of seniors continues to grow. According to the National Council on Aging, financial exploitation of older adults is estimated to cost seniors at least $2.9 billion annually. Additionally, it is estimated that only 1 in 44 cases of elder financial abuse are reported to authorities.
Seniors are often targeted by scammers because they are seen as easy marks. They may have a steady source of income, savings, and good credit, which makes them attractive targets. Seniors may also be more vulnerable to scams because of declining cognitive function, social isolation, and limited access to technology.
The rise of technology and the internet has made it easier for scammers to reach seniors, and scams that were once only committed in person are now being committed online. Online scams, such as the tech support scam and the romance scam, are becoming increasingly common.
In the grandparent scam, a fraudster poses as a grandchild or a relative in distress and calls a senior, asking for money. The scammer may claim to be in jail, stranded in a foreign country, or in need of money for an emergency. The senior is then asked to wire money to help their relative. The scammer may even go so far as to mimic the voice of the grandchild or relative to make the senior believe the call is legitimate. To avoid this scam, seniors should never wire money to someone they don't know or to someone who calls them unsolicited. If a senior receives a call like this, they should hang up and call the grandchild or relative directly to verify the story.
In the lottery scam, a senior is told that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes, but they must pay a fee to claim their prize. The senior is then asked to provide their personal information, such as their Social Security number or bank account information, and is asked to pay a fee to receive their prize. This fee can range from a small amount to several thousand dollars. To avoid this scam, seniors should never provide personal information or pay a fee to claim a prize. Legitimate sweepstakes and lotteries never require a fee to claim a prize.
In the charity scam, a senior is contacted by someone claiming to be from a charity and is asked to donate money. The scammer may use high-pressure tactics or even pretend to be a telemarketer to try to get the senior to donate money. To avoid this scam, seniors should never give money to a charity they don't know or to someone who calls them unsolicited. They should also be wary of charities that offer to send a courier to pick up a donation, as this is a common tactic used by scammers. If a senior is interested in donating to a charity, they should research the charity and make the donation directly to the charity.
In the medical supply scam, a senior is contacted by someone claiming to be from a medical supply company and is asked to provide personal information, such as their Medicare number, in order to receive medical supplies or equipment. The senior is then charged for the supplies, but they never receive them. To avoid this scam, seniors should never provide personal information to someone who calls them unsolicited. They should also be wary of companies that offer medical supplies or equipment in exchange for a fee or personal information. If a senior needs medical supplies or equipment, they should contact their doctor or insurance company.
In the investment scam, a senior is contacted by someone claiming to be a financial advisor or broker and is offered a high-return investment opportunity. The senior is then asked to invest money, which is then lost. To avoid this scam, seniors should never invest money with someone they don't know or to someone who calls them unsolicited. They should also be wary of investments that promise high returns with little or no risk. If a senior is interested in investing money, they should consult with a trusted financial advisor or investment professional.
In this scam, a senior is offered a reverse mortgage, which is a type of loan that allows a homeowner to convert their home equity into cash. The scammer may offer a reverse mortgage with false promises of low interest rates or other benefits, but the senior ends up losing their home.
In this scam, a senior is contacted by someone claiming to be from a funeral home or cemetery and is asked to pay for funeral or cemetery services in advance. The senior is then charged a large fee, but the services are never provided.
In this scam, a senior is approached by someone claiming to be a home repair contractor and is offered home repairs at a discounted rate. The senior is then charged an exorbitant fee for subpar work or is never provided with the services they were promised.
In this scam, a senior is contacted by someone claiming to be from a tech support company and is told that their computer is infected with a virus. The senior is then asked to provide their personal information or pay a fee to have the virus removed.
In this scam, a senior is offered an annuity, which is a type of investment that provides a steady stream of income. The senior is then charged high fees and is promised a high rate of return, but the returns are often lower than promised.
In a romance scam, the scammer pretends to be a romantic interest and gains the trust of the senior. The scammer may contact the senior through an online dating site, social media, or through email. Over time, the scammer may ask for money, either for a personal emergency or to help with a business opportunity. In some cases, the scammer may even claim to be in love with the senior.
Seniors should be cautious of online relationships and should never send money to someone they have not met in person. They should also be wary of anyone who asks for money or personal information early in a relationship. If a senior is looking for love online, they should do their research and only use reputable dating sites. They should also be cautious of anyone who seems too good to be true, who makes unrealistic promises, or who asks for money.
In closing, one tip I would give seniors to avoid scams is to never give out personal information, such as their Social Security number, bank account information, or credit card number, to anyone who calls or emails them unsolicited. Scammers often use high-pressure tactics to try to get seniors to act quickly and provide this information, but it's important for seniors to be cautious and never give out this information to someone they don't know. If a senior receives a call or email that they are unsure about, they should hang up or delete the email and independently reach out to the supposed sender through a phone number or email address that they have verified as legitimate. By being cautious and protecting their personal information, seniors can reduce the risk of being scammed and protect their hard-earned savings.