Blog Home > Blog > Protecting the Elderly: 10 Tips to Help You Recognize and Avoid Scams

As our society becomes increasingly connected and technology-driven, scammers are finding new ways to exploit vulnerable individuals, and the elderly have long been a common target. Elderly scams can result in devastating financial losses and emotional distress. In this article, we will explore why older adults are often targeted, highlight the most common types of scams they could be a target for, and provide tips to help you spot scammers and educate your loved ones about these threats. Let’s dive in.

Why do Scammers Target the Elderly?

Scammers often target older individuals for several reasons. 

  • They may be perceived as more trusting and polite, making them less likely to suspect fraudulent intentions. 
  • Scammers may assume that older adults have accumulated wealth over time, making them attractive targets. 
  • Technology advances rapidly and the elderly are known for not keeping up with it, making technology an easy avenue to use for exploitation.

Here are some alarming statistics:

According to a report by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 2021 showed that adults aged 60 and over were substantially less likely to report losing money to fraud than adults aged 20-59. When they did report losing money, though, they tended to report losing substantially more than younger adults.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) estimates that scams targeting seniors cost older Americans nearly $3 billion annually. (Source) The losses incurred by the elderly extend beyond simply financial, often resulting in increased stress, anxiety, and a loss of trust.

What are the Most Common Types of Scams Against the Elderly?

Next, it’s important to know what you’re up against. Let’s talk about the most common scams out there today.

  • Phone and Email Scams

Scammers may impersonate government officials, banks, or charities to trick older adults into revealing personal information or sending money.

  • Grandparent Scams

Perpetrators pretend to be a grandchild in distress, requesting urgent financial assistance.

  • Medicare and Health Insurance Fraud

Scammers exploit the complexity of the healthcare system, attempting to obtain personal information or bill seniors for services they did not receive.

  • Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams

Fraudsters inform the elderly that they have won a prize but require payment for taxes or processing fees to claim it.

  • Home Improvement and Repair Fraud

Scammers pose as contractors, offering low-cost repairs or improvements, but often deliver subpar work or disappear after receiving payment.

10 Tips to Spot a Scammer and How to Inform Your Loved One About Scammers

A lot of these scammers are sophisticated, and falling victim to their shenanigans isn’t the fault of your loved one. Here are some ways to become more scam savvy to avoid falling prey to their antics.

  1. Educate: Stay informed about the latest scams targeting the elderly and share this information with your loved ones. 
  1. Be skeptical: Encourage a healthy level of skepticism when faced with unsolicited phone calls, emails, or door-to-door offers.
  1. Personal information protection: Advise your loved ones never to share sensitive personal information, such as Social Security numbers or bank details, unless they initiated the contact. For example, if their bank calls and asks for information, have them look up the phone number to their bank themselves and call the bank back. They should not use the number that called them or any phone numbers given to them over the phone.
  1. Caller ID caution: Remind them that scammers can manipulate caller ID to appear as a legitimate organization, so they should not solely rely on caller ID information. Things like having a code word can help them verify who is calling.
  1. Urgency alert: Teach them to be particularly wary of high-pressure tactics or requests for immediate action or payment. Pressure, frustration, escalation, and urgency are common tools used to make the older adult take action before they’ve had time to think it through.
  1. Verify before sharing: We touched on this one already, but encourage them to independently verify requests for money or information by contacting the relevant organization directly using official contact details.
  1. Privacy settings: Assist them in setting up strong privacy settings on social media platforms to minimize the risk of scammers gaining personal information. Things like birth date, phone number, email address, family members, and more are often easily accessible through Facebook.
  1. Financial vigilance: Advise your loved ones to review financial statements regularly and report any suspicious activity to their bank or credit card company.
  1. Trusted sources: Emphasize the importance of seeking advice only from trusted professionals, such as attorneys or financial advisors, before making any major decisions.
  1. Open communication: Foster an open and non-judgmental environment, encouraging your loved ones to discuss any concerns or potential scams they encounter.

Reporting Scams and Seeking Support

If your loved one has fallen victim to a scam, it’s important to remember that they are the victim in this situation. It is not their fault, and reminding them of this can help them cope with any related feelings. Here are a few additional action steps you can take:

  • Encourage reporting

Stress the importance of reporting scams to the appropriate authorities, such as the local police department, the National Elder Fraud Hotline,  the FTC, or the state attorney general’s office. Reporting not only helps in seeking justice but also aids in preventing others from falling victim to the same scam.

  • Support networks

Inform your loved ones about local organizations and resources available to support seniors who have been scammed. These organizations can provide guidance, counseling, and assistance in recovering from the emotional and financial impact of scams.

  • Legal advice

If your loved one has been scammed, recommend consulting with an attorney specializing in elder law or consumer protection to understand their rights and explore potential legal actions.

Closing Thoughts: Staying Safe from Elder Scams

Protecting the elderly from scams requires awareness, education, and open communication. By understanding why older adults are targeted, recognizing common scam types, and implementing preventive measures, we can empower our loved ones to identify and avoid scams. Together, we can help ensure the safety and well-being of our senior population in an increasingly complex digital landscape. If you have questions, we encourage you to reach out to your local CRC and connect with our team.

Further Reading Spotlight: California Department on Aging

As an aging adult, California is one of the best places to be in the country. California has a wealth of resources and support available for elderly adults, family caregivers, and their families. From healthcare options to social services and financial resources, there are a number of programs ready to help you get the support you need. 
Let’s explore the resources and support available in California thanks largely to the California Department on Aging.

Share this post: