4 Scams Targeting Older Adults

February 28, 2023 | Modified: August 28, 2023

Scams targeting older adults have been at an all-time high. Consumer Affairs says the elderly are swindled out of more than $3 billion each year. The lifetime of retirement savings and possessions many older adults have accumulated makes them a prime target for scammers. Here are four scams for older adults to watch for.

1 Government Imposter Scam

A scammer will call, posing as a representative of a government agency. They might say they are from Medicare, the Social Security Administration, or the IRS. They may even spoof a number so the caller looks legit on Caller ID. Once a target takes the bait, the caller will request personal and financial information, account numbers, and possibly health insurance information. They may even demand payment in the form of gift cards. Government agencies never reach out and demand money or ask for confidential information over the phone.

Warning signs:
  • Unsolicited call claiming to be from a government agency.
  • The caller demands payment in the form of cash, gift cards, prepaid debit card, wire transfer, or cryptocurrency.
  • The caller asks you to provide confidential information such as a social security number or financial account numbers over the phone.

2 Grandparent Scam

This horrible scam takes advantage of a grandparent’s love for a grandchild. A scammer calls posing as the police to say their grandchild is in trouble or has been in an accident or involved in a crime. The scammer will know details, such as the grandchild’s name. They will ask the target to gather a large amount of cash to be sent immediately to help the grandchild. The scammer may even pose as the grandchild asking directly for help with expenses such as medical bills or legal bills.

Warning signs:
  • A call claiming a grandchild or loved one is in trouble.
  • A request for cash, gift cards, cryptocurrency, or wire transfers to help your grandchild.
  • The caller uses threats and a sense of urgency to coerce a target into acting quickly without thinking.
  • The scammer posing as a police officer may even ask you to keep the situation a secret to protect your grandchild.

3 Tech Support Scams 

Scammers masking as tech support for trusted companies are a growing problem. This is a big scam targeting older adults and others. Con artists will contact a target and claim their computer or device has a virus or is at risk and request access to install software to protect it. They may request money for the software or trick a victim into downloading malware that can take over a device and steal personal information.

Warning signs:
  • Unsolicited calls or emails claiming to be tech support from a major company such as Apple or Microsoft. Keep in mind that legitimate tech support will not seek you out to fix an issue.
  • A caller using scare tactics to trick you into downloading software or clicking on a link.
  • An unexpected pop-up ad claiming to be tech support. The ad may fraudulently say it is coming from a legitimate source.

4 Elder Lottery Scams 

A scammer will contact a senior citizen claiming they have won a lottery or another prize. They may even impersonate a known prize organization, such as Publishers Clearing house, to build trust. They will say the winner must pay a large fee or possibly taxes to get the prize. They may even ask for banking information or other financial information to transfer the winnings into an account.

Warning signs:
  • Unsolicited call or email stating you won a large sum of money.
  • The caller asks for upfront payment for cash, gift cards, prepaid debit card, wire transfer, or cryptocurrency.
  • The caller asks for financial account or other personal information.

Protect Yourself from Scams 

Scams like the ones mentioned above are designed to catch a victim off guard or scare them into providing money or confidential information to a scammer. Here are a few tips to protect yourself from scams targeting older adults:

  • Be wary of any unsolicited calls, emails, or text messages. If you question the legitimacy of a contact, look up the organization’s contact information and contact them on your own to check if the contact you received was legitimate.
  • Don’t trust caller ID. Criminals can easily spoof a caller ID.
  • Don’t be bullied or scared into acting quickly. Most scams are based on fear and urgency.
  • Never reveal personal information unless you are absolutely positive about who you are communicating with. Remember that Benchmark FCU will never call and ask for your username or password.
  • Use antivirus software to protect you from malware and dangerous websites.
  • Add extra security, such as multifactor authentication to your accounts.
  • Avoid odd payment types. Don’t pay with a gift card, wire transfer, or cryptocurrency. No legitimate business or government agency will insist you pay in this manner.
  • Report fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Learn more about scams by reading our blog “5 Holiday Scams to Avoid.” 

Tap to learn about tax scams in our blog “Don’t Fall Victim to a Tax Scam.”

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