Common Scams That Prey on Seniors and How to Prevent Them


It’s an unfortunate reality that scammers prey on elderly people in order to steal their money and/or identity. Scammers all over the world have gotten more and more creative when it comes to scamming people out of their money, however, these criminals typically focus on the older generation. There are various reasons why scammers focus on the elderly, the most plausible reasons being:

  • They are more willing to listen and patient than younger adults
  • They may be lonely
  • They are more trusting
  • Scammers know that they have a fairly steady income because of social security

Scammers have gotten extremely creative with how they prey on elderly adults, especially with the recent technological innovations. Whether you are a senior yourself, or you have a senior in your life, it’s important that you are aware of the most common scams to watch out for. It’s also equally as important that you know how to avoid these scams. This post will detail the top 5 most common scams that prey on the elderly and what you can do to prevent them.

The Top 5 Scams That Prey on the Elderly

An expert who works for a company that handles in-home care for seniors said that it’s an unfortunate reality that seniors are often victims of scams and theft. She pointed out that seniors’ entire lives can be destroyed because of one greedy scammer. This sad truth is all too common for aging adults, however, it is preventable as long as you know what to watch out for. Here is what you need to know to avoid being scammed as an elderly person.

1.   Internet Scams

Internet scams are the most common scams that seniors fall victim to. Usually, seniors are not as technologically savvy as the younger generation, so are more at risk of falling for an internet scam. There are thousands of internet scammers hiding behind a computer screen waiting for seniors. These internet scammers employ various tactics to trick seniors out of their money or to gain access to their bank accounts. Some of those tactics include:

  • Fake emails
  • Fake Instant Messages
  • Pop-Ups

Because seniors are not as up to date with modern technology, they will often fall right into these internet scams. Scammers will often pose as an important person in a senior’s life such as:

  • Social security representative
  • A charity
  • Health insurance employee
  • Medicare/Medicaid employee
  • The mortgage company
  • Bank employee

As they are posing as one of these people, scammers will send fraudulent emails/messages saying that the senior is in trouble and that he or she needs to take instant action. Usually these fake emails will request personal information and will claim that they need this information in order to make things right. Sadly, many seniors will give into these ploys and will willingly hand over their personal information, allowing scammers to instantly hack their bank accounts and other personal accounts.

Seniors may never recover from these scams and the scammers may never be caught as they are likely skilled at covering up any evidence that could be traced back to them.

2.   Phone Scams

Phone scams are another extremely common kind of scam that seniors often fall victim to. Like internet scammers, phone scammers will pose as someone important in a senior’s life and tell them that they are in some sort of trouble. Seniors will assume that because they hear someone’s voice, this person must be legitimate, and then will give their personal information.

In addition to posing as an employee of some sort, phone scammers will often pull the “grandparent scam.” This twisted scam is when a scammer poses as an elder person’s grandchild and begs for financial assistance. The scammer will say that he or she is in trouble and needs to be wired money or needs access to their bank account right away. The senior will feel a sense of panic and will do exactly what the scammer says, giving the scammer thousands of dollars or access to their account.

3.   Fraudulent Prizes/Lotteries

This kind of scam impacts people of all ages, especially now that scammers have such easy access to communicating with people on the internet. Scammers will get in contact with people, in this case, seniors, and claim that they won some sort of prize. Scammers will usually say that seniors won:

  • Money
  • A vacation/cruise
  • A new form of technology
  • A car
  • A home appliance

After receiving this message, seniors will unknowingly proceed to “claim” their prize and will hand over personal information to this fake person. It’s worth pointing out that personal information doesn’t have to just be a senior’s banking information, it can also be other information such as his or her birthday, social security number, address, phone number, family members, etc. Scammers won’t always directly ask for banking information/money, instead, they will use other personal information to hack into accounts and find out passwords.

4.   Fake Anti-Aging Products

This is a scam that is all too common, so much so that many people don’t think of it when they think of scams. Many companies, even well-known ones such as makeup lines, will market a product as anti-aging and will promise that seniors will see results. Companies/scammers will play on seniors’ insecurities and will claim that their product will stop signs of aging.

Some common fake anti-aging products that scammers sell include:

  • Serums
  • Makeup
  • Lotions
  • Body washes
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Medicines
  • Food products such as protein bars and shakes

Seniors will often feed into these fake anti-aging products and will pay the scammer directly. Or, these products may not exist at all and scammers will simply steal the senior’s money.

5.   Fake Medications/Testing Kits

Similar to fake anti-aging products, scammers will sell fake medications and testing kits, knowing that seniors depend on such things. With the world’s dependency on the internet, scammers can very easily sell fake medicine and medical testing kits. Seniors will see that a certain medication is cheaper than what they are currently paying and will of course opt for that one. Unfortunately, scammers will not send seniors the medication, they will simply steal their money or their credit card information.

Similarly, seniors depend on at-home testing kits and will look online to find the best deal. Scammers will again steal a senior’s money and never send them this kit because it doesn’t exist. This issue is becoming more prevalent as the COVID-19 virus is proving to be here for the foreseeable future. This exploitation of senior needs is disheartening, however, very common. Not only does this kind of scam steal people’s money, but it also puts them at risk for false results if they somehow do get a knock off medical kit.

How Can I Prevent Being Scammed?

If you are a senior or have a senior in your life, you must stay informed. In addition to knowing what the top 5 scams are, it’s also worth your while to know how to prevent being scammed. Here are some easy tips to keep in mind so that you or your loved one do not lose your money or identity to scammers.

Do Research

This is the best way that you can prevent being scammed in this day and age and there are many ways to do this. Before you purchase something online, make sure that it is a reliable and trustworthy site. If you haven’t heard of this website, look it up on Google and see what people are saying about it. If it is a website run by scammers, it’s likely that you are not their first victim, so there is a high chance that other people are posting about their poor experience with the website. This tactic that only takes a few minutes could potentially save your life and your bank account.

Or, in regards to research, if you receive a message, e-mail, or phone call from a person/company you don’t recognize, do research on them. Find out if this message is real or not or if this person/company exists. For example, if you receive an email that your social security is in trouble, look into what the message says, or even call the company yourself. Or if you are left a voicemail from your “grandchild” call him or her directly before proceeding with any kind of action, ask if he or she really did call you. When you do research before responding to a potential scam, you will be taking beneficial proactive measures that can save you thousands of dollars as well as stress and irreversible damages.

Ask Questions

After doing research, ask the person that is contacting your questions. Ask him or her how they got your contact information and what exactly they are looking for. If they claim to be from a company, perhaps the insurance company or the bank, reach out to the company directly and see if they know of a person with this name and to see if what they are claiming is true.

In addition to actually asking the person or company questions, ask yourself some questions. Does it make sense that this person is contacting me? Did I enter any contests or lotteries? Have I ever heard from this company before? Often people, especially seniors, are so flustered by these scams that they think are real, they forget to ask themselves these simple questions.

Make Sure Not To Be Too Trusting

Finally, the best way to prevent a scam is to make sure that you aren’t being too trusting. Of course, you want to see the good in people, but make sure that you aren’t being naive. Be sure that you inquire about things that you aren’t sure about and to consider whether or not you are being scammed. This is true for all scams, however, it may be particularly important for scams that play on your emotions such as the “grandparent scam” or the fake anti-aging products scam.

Do your best to think about what makes logical sense in various situations before you go ahead and give any kind of personal information.

Stay Safe From Scams as a Senior

As you live your everyday life, make sure to do so with caution when it comes to staying away from scammers. Scammers are more common than most people think and possess the ability to ruin seniors’ lives easier. Scammers do not have anyone’s best interest in mind except their own. If you are a senior, keep these tips and points in mind to ensure that you are safe from scammers. Or, if you are not yet a senior, these points are equally as beneficial and will help you navigate through life knowing that you are one step ahead of the scammers as you are familiar with their tactics.

Kelsey Simpson

Kelsey Simpson enjoys writing about things that can help others. She lives in South Jersey and is the proud companion to two German Shepherds and spends her free time volunteering in dog shelters.

2 thoughts on “Common Scams That Prey on Seniors and How to Prevent Them

  1. In the last two days I just got two fake emails (one each day) saying “your order has processed.” Both emails included reference numbers and were for anti-virus products that I supposedly had ordered. A phone number to call them if there is a question about billing, which obviously there would be. When you call the number and say you never ordered the product, they say they can fix it and then step you through a process so they can access your computer — I didn’t bite, but some older people might. The fake emails: one from an “Alina James” and the phone number for them is +1 877-392-2850 and the other supposedly was from Symantec Corporation (it wasn’t) and their number is 1-408-714-0208.

    1. Wow, Gordon! That’s a scary one.

      I agree, some people will fall for it. My own mother, who’s 90, fell for a similar scam about 2 years ago. When she got suspicious she called me and said she had
      given control of her PC over to someone to fix but they were digging through her digital files, no doubt searching for passwords and bank accounts. Fortunately, she’s old school is doesn’t bank online.

      Thanks for bringing this to our attention,

      Gary

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