Prevent phone scams against the elderly

Prevent phone scams against the elderly

Why seniors are targeted for these common scams, what to watch out for, and what to do if you fall for one

by Nora Hogan

Scammers are continuing to find new ways to commit elder fraud over the phone. They target seniors for many reasons, but there are preventative steps you can take and tips to follow so you or your loved ones don’t become one of the many new victims each year.


Elder fraud

From prizes that seem too good to be true to creative ways to convince you that someone needs your help, millions of scams successfully steal money from seniors. The FBI reports $3 billion lost annually from elder fraud, and while you may think you won’t be the next target, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

People above the age of 65 are the most targeted these days because seniors often:

  • Have good credit
  • Are financially secure
  • Are trustworthy


5 Common ways seniors are targeted in phone scams

Tech support or home repair scam

If you receive a phone call from someone offering tech support – IE someone offering to help fix something in your home or claiming to be Amazon or another big company and saying they can help you avoid fraud – you should be very wary. Don’t trust any call out of the blue even if they say they work for a brand or company you recognize.

Relative phone scam

A common phone scam is when you receive a phone call claiming to be a relative, often a grandchild or other close relative, and they say they need financial help because they’re in trouble. Don’t believe any suspicious story you’re told, even if they claim to be your family member or someone with them. Always check with another family member.

Similar scams involve fraudsters pretending to be a caretaker for someone in the family.

Government impersonation scam

Scammers may pretend to be a government official informing you of a potential charge against you if you don’t pay up over a crime you haven’t even committed. The IRS, DEA, and FBI will never call you to ask for money.

Sweepstakes/lottery scam

This is a huge one that has gotten more popular recently. Seniors receive phone calls being told they’ve won some sort of sweepstakes or lottery, and that if they pay a small fee they can receive their full earnings.

TV/Radio scam

Scammers are clever enough to sometimes get advertisements on TV or radio for illegitimate services. They may advertise a service that seems like a good idea to trick you into calling the number provided. Always do research on companies you’re going to have to hand over money to – especially ones like mortgage and credit repair companies. A phone number isn’t safer to contact than a malicious link.


Red flags for senior citizen scams

  • If you’re ever asked for personal information on a phone call you’ve received – such as address, date of birth, credit card, or social security information – don’t give it!
  • Caller claiming to be with someone you know but you don’t have their phone number – never pick up a number you don’t know
  • Scammers may make you feel pressured to give up personal or financial information, but always remember a call from a stranger could be a potential threat


Tips to avoid elder fraud

  • Never answer a call from a number you don’t know. Be sure to add all of your doctors, friends, family, and important phone numbers to your contacts. That way, if you get a call from someone you don’t know, you’ll feel confident in not picking up. If it’s someone you know, they will leave a voicemail. If you have an older loved one, do this for their phone and instruct them to not pick up calls from unknown numbers.
  • Set up your voicemail. Sometimes even robocalls or scammers leave a voicemail, but it’s a good way to screen the call so you never fall immediately into a trap. Be sure not to leave identifying details in your voicemail message.
  • Leave a sign next to your phone reminding you not to pick up phone numbers from people you don’t know.


What to do if you fall victim to a scam

While it may feel embarrassing if you are targeted and fall victim to a scam, know you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to speak up and report any scam. There’s a chance you can stop someone from scamming others, and you want to take these steps so your personal information isn’t compromised.

  • If you gave any personal information, contact your bank immediately to flag the potential fraud.
  • If you mailed any personal checks, call your bank to cancel the check before it clears.
  • Report the scam to the FTC and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center
  • Contact your state attorney’s office


Be sure to pass along this information to anyone older you love, and look out for other scams that are on the rise. Let us know if you’ve ever received a fishy phone call that you believe is a scam by commenting below.


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