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12 Elder Fraud Scams That Target Senior Citizens – How to Stay Protected


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When Louise (not her real name) went to visit her 98-year-old grandmother, she was surprised to find several cheap candles sitting on her table. Her grandmother explained that she’d bought them to help out a charity she gave to regularly, typically spending $75 or $100 each month. Louise asked the charity’s name, and it only took her one quick Internet search to find out it was a fake. Her grandmother’s donations weren’t helping the needy; they were lining the pockets of a scammer.

This is just one example of the many scams that target the elderly. A report from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) estimates that roughly 5 million senior citizens become victims of fraud or financial abuse every year. A 2015 report by True Link Financial found that seniors lose $12.48 billion to scams each year.

Why Scammers Target Seniors

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to certain types of fraud. Scammers prey on the elderly for a variety of reasons.

They Have Money

Scammers target seniors for the same reason famed bank robber Willie Sutton supposedly said he robbed banks: “Because that’s where the money is.” Seniors have had longer to build up their savings, so they’re more likely to have a tidy nest egg and own their homes outright. According to a 2017 Federal Reserve study, the average net worth for American households headed by someone age 65 and older is $1.067 million — 1.5 times as high as the average for all households.

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However, while many older adults are wealthy, many others are poor. A 2018 Kaiser Family Foundation report calculates that 14% of all seniors are living in poverty. Scams that target the elderly take in many people living on fixed incomes who can’t afford the financial loss.

They’re More Trusting

Rich or poor, senior citizens are often lonely. Many are empty nesters whose kids have grown up and moved out. The older these senior citizens get, the more likely they are to become isolated as their friends die or move into nursing homes.

This loneliness makes them prime targets for telephone scammers. They’re often happy to get a call and willing to listen to whatever the person has to say. When older people have no close connections, it’s easier for con artists to form a bond with them and gain their trust.

Also, older people are often more inclined to trust strangers to begin with. People who grew up before 1960 were often raised to be polite and to assume other people are honest. This makes them less willing to interrupt a sales pitch or hang up on a scammer.

They Often Have Memory Problems

According to a 2018 report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), senior citizens are actually more likely to report scams than younger people. However, con artists know that even if their elderly victims report the crime, there’s a good chance they won’t remember the details.

Because memory and cognitive function often decline with age, older victims are likely to have trouble providing investigators with the details they need to find the criminals. Adding to the problem, many people don’t figure out they’ve been conned until weeks or months after the crime took place. By that point, their memories are even hazier.

Some scams specifically target seniors who are known to suffer from memory loss. For instance, True Link Financial outlines a scam in which victims receive three free issues of a popular magazine, followed by a bill for the “subscription” they never requested. Another scam involves calling up seniors to request donations to real charities — except the fraudsters call several times over the course of one day, counting on the victim to forget about the earlier calls. They then pass on 10% of the money collected to the charity and pocket the rest.

They Often Have Other Health Problems

Many health scams focus on seniors because they’re more likely to suffer from specific health problems. This makes them prime targets for fake remedies that promise to do a variety of things, such as:

  • Treat or prevent cancer
  • Treat arthritis
  • Improve cognitive function
  • Improve sexual function
  • Reverse visible signs of aging
  • Improve overall physical condition

Older adults are also vulnerable to scams that center on other needs they have. These include scams related to Social Security or Medicare, fake investments to provide income in retirement, and cons that prey on the recently widowed.

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Common Scams That Target Seniors

To protect your loved ones — or yourself — from fraud, it helps to know what to look out for. Here are 12 of the most common financial scams that target seniors.

1. Social Security Scams

In December 2018, the Social Security Administration (SSA) warned of an upsurge in calls from con artists posing as SSA employees. Sometimes, they even use spoofing technology to make it appear the call is coming from the SSA’s real phone number.

The callers tell their victims, or “marks,” that their Social Security number (SSN), has been “suspended” because it’s been connected with a crime or other suspicious activity. In some versions of the scam, they threaten marks with arrest or other legal action if they don’t call a bogus phone number to resolve the problem. In others, they say the victim’s benefits will be suspended if they don’t call to “reactivate” the SSN.

All of these threats are hollow. The real SSA almost never calls people who haven’t contacted it first, and it never makes threats about legal action over the phone. Typically, what the scammers really want is to get hold of the mark’s SSN for purposes of identity theft. In other cases, they tell victims they need to protect their assets by transferring all their savings to gift cards and giving the fake agent the code, which gives them immediate access to the money.

According to the FTC, bogus Social Security calls are now the most common type of government imposter scam. From September 2018 through September 2019, the FTC received more than 76,000 reports of this type of fraud. Most victims did not lose money, but those who did lost a lot — typically around $1,500.

2. Medicare Scams

There are several different scams related to Medicare. Most of them start out the same way as the Social Security scam: The con artists call up seniors and pose as Medicare representatives. They then try a variety of different tactics, including:

  • Asking victims to “verify” their Medicare number, which the scammers then use to bill Medicare for services the victims never received. Sometimes, they ask for credit card numbers as well.
  • Telling them they must pay a fee to receive a new or upgraded version of their Medicare card. But there’s only one type of Medicare card, and it’s free.
  • Warning them their Medicare card has been compromised and they must move their money into “safer” accounts. By doing this, of course, the marks place their money under the scammer’s control.
  • Telling them they need to sign up for a Medicare Part D plan, which covers prescription drugs, in order to keep their other benefits.

Con artists are always coming up with new variants on this scam. For instance, in July 2019, the FTC reported on a variant in which scammers tell marks Medicare is offering free DNA test kits, but they must provide their Medicare number to receive one.

3. Counterfeit Prescription Drugs

The rising cost of prescription drugs has put a squeeze on seniors, who tend to take more of them than the average person. To save money, some seniors look for cheaper versions of their meds at online pharmacies. This can be a sound strategy if the pharmacy is legit, but many online sellers are actually dealing in counterfeit drugs.

Counterfeit medicines aren’t the same as generic drugs. Using generics, which contain the same active ingredient and dosage as name brands, is a good way to save money on health care costs. Counterfeits, by contrast, bear the name of a real medicine, but the actual contents of the bottle are one of the following:

  • Old or expired versions of the medicine
  • Look-alikes that contain a different active ingredient or no active ingredient at all
  • Copies that have the right active ingredient, but at the wrong dose

At best, these phony meds won’t actually treat the user’s condition. At worst, they contain unsafe ingredients that threaten the user’s health. The Food and Drug Administration has put out alerts about fake versions of Cialis, Botox, and several cancer drugs within the past few years.

4. Fake Anti-Aging Products

Counterfeit medicines aren’t the only phony products being marketed to seniors. According to the FBI, there are also counterfeit versions of many cosmetics and other “anti-aging” products.

These fake products often contain harmful chemicals such as arsenic, cadmium, beryllium, and dangerously high levels of aluminum. They can also be contaminated with harmful bacteria. Phony cosmetics have been known to cause eye infections and skin problems like acne, psoriasis, and other rashes.

5. Funeral Fraud

Some of the most vicious scams are the ones that prey on the recently bereaved. After a death, widowed spouses and other near relations are at their most vulnerable. Even people who normally wouldn’t fall for a scam aren’t likely to be thinking clearly — and con artists move in quickly to take advantage of them.

One common con relates to funeral costs. By law, consumers are allowed to select only the specific items and services they want for a funeral, without being forced to purchase unwanted add-ons to get these items and services. However, unscrupulous funeral homes don’t always disclose this information. They try to sell their bereaved customers services that aren’t required by law, such as a casket or embalming for direct cremation, or tell them that certain items are only available as part of an expensive package deal.

A related con is the cemetery scam. The con artists offer seniors the opportunity to buy cemetery plots for themselves in advance and take the burden off their families. However, after their death, the family discovers the plot is worth much less than the senior paid for it or doesn’t exist at all.

Another type of scam isn’t directly related to funerals, but it centers around bereavement. Scammers check the obituary sections of small-town newspapers, then contact a recently widowed spouse to claim that their late husband or wife owed them thousands of dollars. They threaten the grieving spouses with lawsuits, eviction, and public shaming if the debt isn’t paid. Often, they follow up with an offer to “settle” for an immediate, steeply discounted payment on a  debt that doesn’t exist in the first place.

6. Phone Scams

According to the National Council on Aging, senior citizens are about twice as likely to make purchases by phone as Americans in general. That makes them particularly vulnerable to telemarketing scams.

Scammers call up seniors and try to trick them into handing over their credit card information for bogus products and services. For instance, they try to tempt their victims with offers of low-cost vitamins, health care products, and vacation deals. The victims pay up, but the promised goods never arrive.

Some phone scammers don’t claim to be selling anything. Instead, they say they have something to give away. They tell marks they’ve won a free gift, vacation, or other prize. However, to receive it, the mark has to pay a fee for taxes, postage, and handling, or some other charge. Of course, there is no gift, and the fee goes straight into the scammer’s pocket.

To make matters worse, victims of this scam can be targeted for a second phone scam later on. Scammers keep “sucker lists” of marks who’ve fallen for the free gift scam and sell them to other con artists. After a while, the victims receive another call, this one offering to help them “recover” their lost money or claim the prize they never received — for a fee, of course.

There are real companies that help people recover missing money. However, you can tell you’re dealing with a phony if the caller demands a fee in advance. By law, people who recover lost money for you can’t claim a fee until seven days after delivering the money to you.

7. Internet Scams

A 2017 Pew survey found that senior citizens today are using the Internet more than ever. About two-thirds of adults over 65 go online, and over 40% own smartphones. However, only 26% of people in this age group say they feel “very confident” in the digital realm. This combination of significant Internet use and limited digital skills makes seniors likely targets for the numerous email and Internet scams floating around.

Online scams that often target seniors include:

  • Phishing Scams. In a typical phishing scam, hackers send out an email designed to look like it comes from a business the mark deals with regularly. They employ various tricks to get the mark to click on a link or disclose personal information, such as passwords. They use this to steal the victim’s identity, gain access to their computer, or steal money directly. Many seniors aren’t Internet-savvy enough to know about phishing scams and how to avoid them.
  • Malware. Anyone who’s been using the Internet for long has learned not to click on suspicious links or pop-up windows. These links can open up your computer to malware — harmful software such as viruses, worms, spyware, adware, and ransomware. However, seniors are less likely to be cautious about unknown links or to employ other tools to protect their machines, such as firewalls and antivirus software.
  • Sweetheart Scams. As older people start using online dating sites at higher rates, they run the risk of falling for online romance scams. The scammers connect with lonely people online and move fast to establish a bond with them. Then they use that bond to extract money from the victims to deal with a series of fake emergencies, from a lost wallet to a sick pet. A 2016 Wall Street Journal article relates the story of one 79-year-old man who handed over more than $700,000 to his so-called sweetheart over a two-year period.

8. Investment Scams

There are many types of investment scams, from Ponzi schemes to pump-and-dumps, that target anyone who has money to spend. However, the SEC has identified several scams that tend to focus on seniors in particular. These include:

  • Charitable Gift Annuities. A real charitable annuity is a type of investment in which a donor gives a large sum to a charity. In return, the charity provides the donor with a fixed income stream for the rest of their life. However, many seniors are unknowingly putting their money into fake charitable annuities. There is no actual charity to receive the money. Instead, it goes straight into the seller’s own account.
  • “Risk-Free” and “High-Return” Investments. In investing, risk and return tend to go hand in hand. Any investment that promises great returns with little or no risk is almost sure to be a fraud. The same goes for any investment that claims to be 100% risk-free. Seniors are more likely to fall for this type of promise because they tend to be more risk-averse than other investors.
  • Phony CDs and Bonds. Two types of low-risk investments that often appeal to seniors are certificates of deposit (CDs) and bonds. Shady dealers take advantage of this by selling seniors CDs and bonds that don’t deliver the promised yield or, in some cases, don’t even exist. In 2006, the SEC filed a complaint against fraudsters who sold $3.9 million worth of fake CDs to investors, then diverted the money into a Ponzi scheme.
  • Promissory Notes. Promissory notes are a type of debt investment. An investor lends money to a company for a fixed period of time, and the company pays it back with interest. Some promissory notes are legitimate investments, but those sold to individual investors are often fakes. Seeking a guaranteed return, investors lend their money to companies that aren’t real.
  • Sale and Leaseback Contracts. Sale and leaseback is an arrangement in which one party sells an item to a buyer and then leases it back from them. The item can be a property or a piece of equipment, such as a pay phone or ATM. In a phony sale and leaseback contract, the scammer sells an investor an item that doesn’t exist. Often they promise to buy it back after a period of time, a promise they don’t intend to keep.
  • High-Pressure Sales. Shady investment advisors use high-pressure sales seminars to pitch their investments. They hold a meeting at an upscale hotel, provide free food, and then attempt to pressure investors into making a hasty decision. That’s bad enough, but sometimes the investments being sold at these seminars aren’t even legitimate. Investors may actually be putting their money into a Ponzi scheme or simply into the seller’s personal account.
  • Prime Bank Schemes. In this scam, the con artist offers investors the chance to purchase and trade “prime bank” investments on secret overseas markets. They often claim these are special deals normally reserved for top Wall Street financiers or that investors can double their money with little risk. In reality, neither the investments nor the markets themselves exist.

9. Reverse Mortgage Scams

A reverse mortgage can be a useful way for people over 62 to turn their home equity into a source of regular monthly income. However, when seniors see ads for reverse mortgages in their mail, on a billboard, or on a flier posted at their church, they should be wary. The people advertising these services are often con artists trying to steal the seniors’ home equity or to use them to steal someone else’s.

Reverse mortgage scams can involve:

  • Mortgage Relief. Sometimes, seniors who still have a balance on their existing mortgage seek a reverse mortgage as a way to get caught up on their mortgage payments. Scammers prey on these desperate seniors by billing their services as a way to stop foreclosure. They may offer a “100% money-back guarantee” or say they can get fast approval on a loan in exchange for an upfront fee. These bogus companies then pocket the money from the reverse mortgage instead of putting it toward the first mortgage.
  • Phony Investments. Shady financial advisors encourage seniors to take out a reverse mortgage and put the money into an investment, such as an annuity or an insurance product. Typically, they promise high returns. However, the investments are either bogus or come with high fees that line the advisor’s pockets.
  • House Flipping. Salespeople persuade seniors to use the proceeds from a reverse mortgage to buy another house, then flip that house for a quick profit. However, there’s no guarantee the second property will actually increase in value. Even if it does, the fees involved in the two real estate transactions — buying the house and selling it — could eat up any profits.
  • Home Repairs. A person knocks on a senior’s door, claiming to be from a home repair company that’s offering a free consultation. They recommend a series of pricey, unnecessary repairs and suggest a reverse mortgage to pay for them.

10. Lottery or Sweepstakes Scams

In this scam, seniors receive a message telling them they’ve won a lottery or sweepstakes, such as the Australian lottery. However, before they can collect their winnings, they need to pay some sort of fee. Scammers offer all sorts of different reasons for this fee, including import duties, shipping and handling, or insurance. Sometimes they even tell victims they must pay a travel agent to arrange transportation so they can collect their winnings in person.

The con artists usually tell the mark to send the money by wire transfer or a prepaid debit card, such as Green Dot. If the mark complies, the scammers often come back with requests for more and higher fees. According to the True Link report, one victim spent 75% of his life savings on these fake fees before learning his lottery win wasn’t real.

In other cases, the scammers ask the mark to provide a bank routing number so they can transfer out the money for the fees. This gives scammers full access to the victim’s account, which they can loot at will. Sometimes, they also request other personal information, which they use for identity theft.

Another version of this scam is a variant on the old returned check scam. The mark receives a check for their “winnings” right away, then is instructed to wire back some money for fees. The scammers get the transferred funds right away, while the victim ends up with nothing when the check bounces.

11. Grandparent Scams

If you want a senior citizen to panic and stop thinking clearly, tell them one of their grandchildren is in trouble. That’s exactly what con artists do in the grandparent scam.

They call up an older person and greet them as “Grandpa” or “Grandma.” Sometimes, they’ve used social media to find out the name of one of the mark’s actual grandchildren. In other cases, they say something like “It’s your favorite grandchild” or “Can you guess who this is?” to trick the mark into revealing a name. They often call at night when victims are likely to be sleepy and confused so they won’t notice their “grandchild’s” voice sounds different.

Once they’ve convinced the mark it’s their grandchild on the line, they explain that they’re in trouble and need money immediately. They give various reasons for this request, such as:

  • They’ve been in an accident and need money for repairs
  • They’re behind on their rent and in danger of eviction
  • They’ve been arrested for drunk driving

They ask the mark to send money right away, usually by wire transfer or prepaid card. Another variant on the scam, reported by the FTC in 2018, asks victims to send cash by mail, UPS, or FedEx. Typically, the scammers tell the mark to divide the bills among several envelopes and put them between the pages of a magazine. Both these methods are untraceable, so the victims can’t recover their money.

Another hallmark of this scam is that the con artists try to stop the senior from verifying their story. The so-called grandchild begs the victim not to call their parents, often saying, “They’d kill me if they knew.” One senior targeted by this scam says the impersonator warned him that he could be arrested and fined if he told anyone about the call, according to the FTC.

Fortunately, it’s easy for a concerned grandparent to circumvent this scam. All they have to do is call their grandchild back on their real phone number. Within seconds, they can learn that their grandchild is OK and avoid being scammed themselves.

12. Charity Scams

Charity scams are particularly nasty because they take advantage of the mark’s desire to help others. These scams often pop up in the wake of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane. Fake charities solicit funds to help the victims of a disaster, but not one penny of the money they collect ever reaches these victims.

Charity scammers solicit funds by phone, email, social media, or even in person. Sometimes, they give their phony charities names that sound similar to real ones and set up websites to make them look legitimate.

However, usually only a little research is needed to tell that the charities are bogus. For one thing, their names won’t show up on reliable sites like Charity Navigator or the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. A simple Google search of the charity’s name with the word “scam” or “complaint” is likely to turn up lots of hits. That’s why the scammers often stress the urgency of the crisis and press their marks to give now, so they won’t take the few minutes needed to discover it’s a fake.

Even worse, some scammers prey on the actual victims of natural disasters. They pose as government workers from an agency like the IRS or FEMA, offering to help victims file claims and get tax refunds. This allows them to get hold of the victims’ personal information, which they use for identity theft. This scam is a double whammy for people who have already suffered a huge financial loss.

What Puts Seniors at Risk for Scams

The things that put seniors most at risk for scams aren’t always what you’d expect.

According to the True Link report, a senior’s risk of suffering financial fraud is a combination of “vulnerability plus exposure.” Risk factors include:

  • Cognitive Problems. Seniors who suffer from memory loss, Alzheimer’s dementia, or stroke are more likely to fall for a financial scam. Their cognitive problems make it harder for them to recognize fraud.
  • Friendliness. Older people who are friendly and outgoing lose about four times as much money to financial scams as other seniors. This could be because they’re approachable and likely to take people at their word.
  • Age. While some people think the oldest people are at most risk of fraud, it’s actually the reverse. Seniors who are relatively young, urban-dwelling, and college-educated lose more money to scams because they’re exposed to more of them.
  • Financial Savvy. Financially sophisticated seniors are less likely to fall for many types of scams than those who know less about finance. However, when they do fall for a scam, they typically lose a lot more money because they’re confident about their financial decisions and comfortable moving around large amounts of money. Likewise, frugal seniors lose about five times as much to fraud as their peers because they’re suckers for a bargain.
  • Telemarketing Calls. Phone calls are one of the major ways scammers ply their trade. A person who receives just one telemarketing call per day is likely to lose three times as much money to fraud as someone who receives none.
  • Financial Exploitation. Scams and financial exploitation aren’t exactly the same thing. Exploiting seniors means tricking them into financial mistakes with misleading or high-pressure sales pitches, as opposed to an outright scam. However, one often leads to the other. A senior who loses as little as $20 per year to financial exploitation is likely to lose 100 times as much to other types of fraud.

How to Avoid Senior Scams

Your best defense is to be aware of scams and how they work so you can be on your guard against them. Here are some general tips that can protect you from all types of scams, including the ones aimed at seniors.

  • Be Suspicious. Whenever someone contacts you out of the blue, whether by mail, email, or phone, be wary. Take the time to check out the business, charity, or whatever it is before trusting it with any of your money. This goes double for anything that looks like an unbeatable deal. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Don’t Trust Phone Numbers. If your caller ID tells you a phone call is coming from a trusted business or organization, such as the IRS, don’t assume it’s true. Nowadays, it’s extremely easy for scammers to spoof a real company’s phone number.
  • Protect Your Personal Information. Never give out any personal or financial information to someone who calls or emails you. This includes your SSN, Medicare number, banking information, and credit card numbers. Provide this info only when you initiated the call yourself to a business you know is legitimate.
  • Read the Fine Print. Never respond to any offer without knowing all the details. Read all contracts and sales agreements carefully, including the fine print. This includes purchases you make online or from a TV ad.
  • Do Your Homework. Before agreeing to do business with any new company — including sales providers, investments, and charities — do some due diligence. Ask for the salesperson’s name, the name of the business, its contact info, and its license number. Then, take the time to review the company’s website and check its ratings with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Take Your Time. Never make a financial decision under pressure. If a marketer tries to push you into spending or investing money before you’ve had time to do your research, hang up on them.
  • Talk It Over. Before making a large investment, talk it over with someone you trust. If you don’t have a financial advisor, run the investment by a trusted friend or family member to see if it sounds reasonable.
  • Don’t Pay to Play. Don’t pay in advance for any service, such as home repairs. You have no guarantee they’ll actually be provided. Never pay a fee to collect a prize that’s supposed to be free. Any sweepstakes or lottery that charges a fee to collect your winnings is guaranteed to be a scam.
  • Use Traceable Payments. Automatically be suspicious of any business or organization that requests payment in an untraceable form, such as a wire transfer, gift card, or cash in an envelope. Stick to traceable forms of payment, such as credit cards and payment apps.
  • Report Scams. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a scam, report it. Contact your local police department to file a report, and file a complaint with the FTC. You can also notify the FBI about the scam through the FBI tips website. Even if it’s too late to recover your money, you can still protect others from the same kind of fraud.

How to Protect Older Relatives

Protecting yourself against senior scams is one thing, but protecting your older relatives is quite a bit harder. Monitoring all your aged parents’ mail, emails, and phone calls to screen out scams is awkward enough if you live with them and virtually impossible if you don’t.

Of course, you can always lecture your relatives after the fact if they get scammed, or even threaten to take over their finances if they aren’t more careful. But according to AARP, this strategy is likely to backfire. If you make them feel ashamed or scared of losing their independence, they’re less likely to admit it if they fall for another scam in the future. That makes it even harder for you to protect them.

Instead, AARP recommends the following approaches:

  • Stay Informed. Talk to your relatives regularly about what kind of mail and phone calls they get. If you hear about lots of calls or messages that are obvious scams, it could be a sign  they’re on a sucker list. They — or you — will have to be extra vigilant about guarding against fraud.
  • Unlist Their Phone Number. Help your parents unlist their home phone number so scammers can’t get it as easily. Also, take steps to reduce robocalls, such as using a call-blocking registry or app.
  • Cut out Junk Mail. Another way to reduce your relatives’ exposure to scams is to help them get less junk mail. For a small fee, they can register with DMAchoice to block direct mail from legitimate vendors. That way, they’ll know any sales pitches that still make it into their mailboxes are likely to be scams.
  • Check Credit Reports. If you can’t persuade your relatives to check their annual credit reports, check them yourself on their behalf. It will enable you to spot any new, fake accounts opened in their names and close them before too much damage is done.
  • Explain the Scam. If your relative tells you about an offer that sounds like a scam, don’t say, “That’s a scam” and tell them to hang up the phone or toss the letter. Instead, explain to them how you can tell. For instance, you could point out you can’t win a contest you never entered, or that government agencies don’t need to ask for your SSN because they already have it on file. Information like this helps arm your relatives against future scams.
  • Use Reverse Psychology. If you see a parent putting money into something that seems like a scam, such as a “guaranteed” high-yield investment, try asking how you can get in on the action too. According to psychologists, parents who are willing to put their own money at risk sometimes become more wary when they see a child doing the same. If they warn you off the investment, you can ask why they’re willing to risk their money on it. Talking it through with you can help them recognize the investment as a scam.
  • Don’t Blame the Victim. If a relative has become the victim of a scam, don’t put the blame on them or make them feel stupid. Instead, put the focus on avoiding these scams in the future.
  • Help Them Help Others. If parents are unwilling to share the details of a scam they’ve fallen for, explain how their experience could help stop the scammers from victimizing others. By telling them their story could be the key to catching the scammer or stopping them from striking again, you can make them feel like heroes instead of hapless victims.
  • Monitor Accounts. If your parents have fallen prey to senior scams in the past, consider asking for online access to their bank and credit card accounts. It will allow you to keep an eye on them and spot any unusual or suspicious activity.

Final Word

Financial scams and other forms of elder financial abuse do more than cost seniors money. According to the True Link report, they can also affect seniors’ physical and mental health. Seniors who lose a significant amount of money to fraud can be forced to skip meals or go without medical care to make ends meet. Many also suffer from depression or anxiety.

In some cases, seniors even lose their independence as a result of financial fraud. Grown children, seeing their parents’ savings fall into the hands of scammers, may decide they need to take over their finances to protect them from further loss.

What’s more, adult children and other people caring for aging family members often end up spending money to help their older relatives deal with the effects of a scam. Their careers and relationships can suffer as they devote hours of their time to helping the senior recover from the fraud. This can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression for them as well.

The best way to avoid these dangers, for both seniors and their caregivers, is to be vigilant. Remember what your parents taught you years ago about not trusting strangers, and apply that same rule now to any strangers who ask you or your loved ones for money or personal information.

Have any of these senior scams ever affected you or an older person close to you? What did you do to protect yourself or your family?


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Amy Livingston is a freelance writer who can actually answer yes to the question, "And from that you make a living?" She has written about personal finance and shopping strategies for a variety of publications, including,, and the Dollar Stretcher newsletter. She also maintains a personal blog, Ecofrugal Living, on ways to save money and live green at the same time.