How to Spot and Avoid Scams Targeting Seniors

Blog | July 3rd, 2024

As technology advances and communication becomes easier, scams targeting seniors are on the rise. Older adults are often targeted due to perceived vulnerabilities, such as less familiarity with new technologies and potential social isolation. This makes them attractive targets for scammers looking to exploit their trust and financial resources. Statistics reveal a troubling trend: a 2021 report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) highlighted that older adults lose more money to scams than any other age group, with median losses for people aged 70 and older being significantly higher than those for younger age groups.

Learn more about these types of scams and how to avoid them!

Common Scams Targeting Seniors

Imposter Scams
Scammers often pose as trusted individuals or authorities to trick seniors into giving them money or personal information. Common examples include:
  • IRS Scams: Fraudsters call, claiming to be from the IRS, threatening legal action or arrest unless immediate payment is made.
  • Tech Support Scams: Seniors receive calls or pop-up messages claiming their computer is infected, and they need to pay for fake tech support services.

Phishing Scams
Phishing involves tricking individuals into providing personal information through deceptive emails or phone calls. Examples include:
  • Email Phishing: Seniors receive emails that appear to be from legitimate sources, such as banks, asking them to verify account details.
  • Phone Phishing: Scammers call, pretending to be from reputable companies, to extract personal or financial information.

Telemarketing Scams
These scams involve fraudsters calling seniors and using high-pressure tactics to sell fake products or services. Common schemes include:
  • Prize Scams: Claiming the senior has won a prize but needs to pay a fee to claim it.
  • Magazine Subscriptions: Offering fake or overpriced magazine subscriptions with hidden costs.

Charity Scams
Scammers pose as representatives of fake charities, especially after natural disasters or during the holiday season, soliciting donations. They often use emotional appeals to convince seniors to donate money.

Investment Scams
Fraudulent investment schemes promise high returns with little risk. Examples include:
  • Ponzi Schemes: Using funds from new investors to pay returns to earlier investors, eventually collapsing when new investments dry up.
  • Fake Investments: Promoting non-existent or worthless investments to extract money from unsuspecting seniors.

Health Care Scams
Scammers exploit the healthcare needs of seniors by:
  • Fake Medicare Representatives: Calling and asking for personal information to issue a new Medicare card.
  • Medical Equipment Fraud: Billing Medicare for unnecessary or unissued medical equipment.

Recognizing Red Flags

Unsolicited Contact
Be cautious of unexpected calls, emails, or visits. Legitimate organizations rarely contact individuals out of the blue and demand immediate action.

Pressure Tactics
High-pressure sales tactics and urgent demands for money are red flags. Scammers often create a sense of urgency to prevent victims from thinking clearly.

Requests for Personal Information
Never share personal or financial information with unsolicited contacts. Scammers often ask for Social Security numbers, bank account details, or credit card information.

Too Good to Be True Offers
Deals that seem too good to be true usually are. Be wary of offers that promise high returns with little to no risk, or prizes that require upfront payments.

Protecting Yourself

Educate Yourself
Staying informed about the latest scams is crucial. Regularly read up on new scam tactics and share this information with friends and family.

Verify Before Trusting
Always verify the legitimacy of a caller, email, or charity. Call official numbers or visit official websites to confirm authenticity before taking any action.

Use Technology Safely
Implement safe practices for using the internet, email, and social media. Use strong, unique passwords, enable two-factor authentication, and be cautious of suspicious links and attachments.

Secure Your Personal Information
Protect your personal and financial information both online and offline. Shred sensitive documents, use secure websites for transactions, and keep personal information private.

Reporting Scams

Why Reporting Matters
Reporting scams helps authorities track and combat fraudulent activities, protecting others from becoming victims.

How to Report
To report a scam:
  1. Contact your local law enforcement agency.
  2. Report to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.
  3. Notify your state consumer protection office.

What to Include in a Report
Include the scammer’s contact details, description of the scam, and any other relevant information.

Resources for Help

Hotlines and Websites
  • National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11
  • AARP Fraud Watch Network:
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC):

Support Groups
Join support groups and community resources for scam victims to share experiences and receive support.

Legal Assistance
Find and contact legal assistance if you’ve been scammed. Organizations like the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) can provide help.

Scams targeting seniors are a serious issue, but by staying vigilant and informed, older adults can protect themselves from becoming victims. Regularly update yourself on new scam tactics and share this knowledge with your community to help safeguard everyone.

Related: 7 Clever Hacks to Slash Your Grocery Bill This Month