skip to Main Content
A Close Up Of A Keyboard

Is this a Scam? Here’s What Every Senior Citizen Needs to Know

Even the closest senior citizens to us are not safe from scams. I was talking to my dad the other day and he said he and my mom have been getting things in the mail that they didn’t order.  After inquiring more about the things that were arriving at their house, I discovered they received a CPAP machine cleaner (my parents do not have a CPAP machine), a back brace, clothing they did not order, and a ring, among other things.  In total, over $800 worth of items they did not order or approve.  It was frustrating for them.  They were unsure what to do.  Luckily I could help them; the items were returned with no charges assessed.  

According to the FBI, each year, millions of Senior Citizens fall victim to some type of financial fraud or confidence scheme, including romance, lottery, and sweepstakes scams.  Seniors often get targeted because they tend to be trusting and polite and may have financial savings, own a home, and have good credit.  All of this makes them attractive to scammers.  Also, seniors may not report fraud because they don’t know how, or they may be feeling too ashamed at having been scammed.  

Here are some common scams:

Grandparent Scam Criminals pose as a relative such as a child or grandchild and claim to be in immediate financial need.  They may ask for Grandma, say their name in a quiet, muffled tone, and say they are calling from jail and need money for bail.  

Tech Support Scam – Criminals pose as technology support representatives and offer to fix non-existent computer issues to gain access to victim’s devices and sensitive information.

Government Impersonation Scam – Criminals pose as government employees and will threaten to arrest or prosecute victims unless they give them money.

Romance Scam – Criminals pose as interested romantic partners on social media or dating sites to gain access to their elderly victims.

Sweepstakes, Charity, Lottery Scam – Criminals claim to work for a legitimate charitable organization, or they will claim their targets have won a sweepstake or lottery that they need a payment for in order to release funds.

Home Repair Scam – Criminals appear in person (mostly going door to door) and charge homeowners upfront for home repair services that they never provide.

TV and Radio Scam – Criminals target victims using illegitimate advertisements about legitimate services such as reverse mortgages or credit repair.

Family and Caregiver Scam – Relatives or acquaintances of elderly victims take advantage of them in order to access their money.

COVID-19 Scams – Criminals pretending to be from medical organizations such as the CDC claim to have a dose of COVID-19 vaccine ready for the target of their scam to gain access to payment information over the phone.  Charity scams are also common amid a crisis where the criminals will ask for anything from cash, to gift cards, to wiring money.  Email scams using the logo of the World Health Organization or another popular medical entity to lure users into clicking on a button that unleashes malware or installs spyware that can steal passwords, credit card numbers, and other data.

What can you do?

First, be suspicious.  If something seems “off,” it probably is.  Be aware of scam attempts and end all communication with the offender.  Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, and door-to-door service offers.  When in doubt, end the communication immediately.

Search online for the for the contact information and/or names of the scam offered to you as others may have already posted information online about avoiding these scams.

Do not be pressured to act quickly.  Scammers try to create a sense of urgency inducing fear to get their victims to take immediate action.  Call the police if you feel you or a loved one is in danger.

Never give out your personal identifiable information and do not give money, gift cards, checks, or wire money to any unverified person or business.

Make sure your computer’s anti-virus, security software, and malware protections are up to date.

Be careful not to open email attachments from someone you don’t know.

Disconnect from the internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or your screen locks.  Enable pop-up blockers to avoid clicking on a pop-up by accident.

If you feel a criminal has access to your device or account, contact your financial institutions immediately to place protections on your accounts so they can monitor for suspicious activity.

When reporting a scam, include as many details as possible such as the name and/or company used, date of contact, communication method, any specific phone number, email address, mailing address, website, financial institution, and description of the instructions you were given by the scammer.

If you believe you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud, contact your local FBI field office or submit a tip online. You can also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Back To Top