Beware of Elder Scams

Of the dozens of types of scams perpetrated on consumers, many target older adults because they tend to be the most vulnerable, and they have the most money. As a result, older adults should be on the lookout for some particular scams that specifically target them.

Grandparent Scam

One of the more unconscionable scams is the grandparent scam. A person calls an older adult posing as a grandchild who’s been in an accident or is in legal trouble and urgently needs money. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the scammers typically request payment in cash, with the bills spread  among different envelopes.

To guard against this scam, don’t act right away. Make a call to the grandchild on a correct phone number to verify their identity. If you have been scammed, file a complaint with the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint.

Telemarketing Scams

As a group, older adults make twice as many purchases over the phone than the average consumer, which makes them easy prey for telemarketing scammers. Some of the more common and successful telemarketing scams include:

  • The pigeon drop. The scammer informs you that he has come upon a large sum of money and offers to split it with you in exchange for a “good faith” payment made in cash. In many cases, a second scammer posing as a lawyer, banker or some other trustworthy third party, gets involved to add credibility.
  • The fake accident scam. Similar to the grandparent scam, a person calls older adults informing them their grandchild or another relative is in the hospital and urgently needs money.
  • Charity scam. These occur frequently following a natural disaster, where a person solicits money for a fake charity. Charity scammers often create a sense of urgency, giving older adults no time to look into the charity or think about whether they should give.

These scams can be avoided by strictly following a few rules:

  • Never, ever provide personal information over the phone until you have verified the identity of the caller.
  • Never ever provide sensitive information through an email.
  • Always be skeptical of anyone asking for money – even if it’s a charitable organization or family member.
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