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Common Elder Fraud Schemes to Watch Out For

Every year, millions of elderly people are targeted by financial scammers. In 2021, there were over 92,000 elderly victims of fraud, resulting in $1.7 billion in losses.

Seniors usually have financial savings, good credit and own a home—all of which make them attractive to scammers. In a cruel twist, their trusting and polite manner can make them a target.

Furthermore, seniors might be less likely to report fraud because they feel ashamed to admit that they were scammed. They may be worried that their family won’t trust them to handle their own financial matters anymore. Even if an elderly victim does report a crime, they might not be able to give investigators all the necessary details needed to rectify the situation.

The best way to aid your aging parents against fraud is to help them identify scams. Here are a few of the most common elder fraud schemes to watch out for:

Common Schemes Targeting Seniors

●     Grandparent scams

The scammer pretends to be a relative, typically a child or grandchild, and says they are in urgent need of money. They might ask for a wire transfer or credit card number.

The safest thing for your elderly parent to do in this situation is to verify with another family member who knows where their child/grandchild is. They could also ask the caller a few very specific questions that only their actual child/grandchild would know how to answer.

●     Tech support scams

Some con artists present themselves as tech support personnel and offer to resolve false computer issues. They gain remote access to the victims’ devices and sensitive information.

Let your elderly loved one know that legitimate tech companies won’t contact them by phone, email, or text message to tell them there’s a problem with their computer. Also, security pop-up warnings from real tech companies will never ask to call a phone number or click on a link.

●     Government scams

Also known as government impersonator or imposter scams, fraudsters pose as government entities (such as the IRS, social security, or Medicare) and tell the victim they have unpaid taxes and threaten arrest or deportation if they do not pay up immediately.

Make sure your loved one understands that the government never initiates an action by phone.

●     Romance scams

Romance scammers exploit seniors’ loneliness by posing as someone who wants to build a romantic or platonic relationship, then they start asking for money.

Your loved one should never give out their personal information until they have video chatted or met this potential new partner face to face. If the person that your loved one is interested in declines to meet, that’s a red flag.

●     Home repair scams

Criminals defraud homeowners out of money by showing up in person and taking payments in advance for services they never perform.

Before making home repairs, ensure the contractor’s down payment is reasonable. Anything over 30% of the project’s cost isn’t a good idea to pay upfront. Your elderly parent should protect their investment by spacing out payments based on when the contractor meets project milestones. And they should not pay by cash or wire transfer.

●     Sweepstakes/charity/lottery scams

The scammer claims that your parent has won a lottery or sweepstakes prize, but they must first pay taxes or another fee before they can claim it. In other cases, the scammer may threaten to report your parents to the IRS if they do not abide by their demands.

Unlike a lottery, a legitimate prize promotion should not require any purchase or payment of money for a consumer to participate or win. Also let your aging parent know that the federal government does not oversee sweepstakes and no federal government agency will contact them to ask for money in order to claim a prize.

●     COVID-19 scams

By June 2021, 73% of COVID-19 and stimulus payment complaints involved fraud and identity theft. Some of these scams involve so-called miracle cures, vaccine scams and “free” COVID-19 tests that gather the victim’s Medicare information to submit false health care claims.

Be cautious of unsolicited healthcare fraud schemes through emails, phone calls, or in-person contact. There are medical professionals and scientists working hard to find a cure, approved treatments, and vaccines for COVID-19. You will not be notified of approved treatments or cures through an email, telephone call, online advertisement, or unsolicited in-person sales pitch from a stranger. Your aging parent should never share personal or health information with anyone other than known and trusted medical professionals.

How to Keep Your Loved Ones Safe From Elder Fraud Abuse

Although you cannot stop scammers from calling, you can give your parents the information they need to deal with these threats. Taking the time to familiarize yourself and your elderly loved one with some common scams is the first step.

Scams can happen to anyone and are intentionally designed to catch us off guard. If you believe your aging parent is a victim of elder fraud, reassure them that there is nothing to be ashamed of and seek the assistance of local law enforcement, a skilled financial elder abuse attorney or Adult Protective Services.

If your parent has been scammed, you should report their experience online to the FTC. Sharing their experiences can prevent the same heartache from happening to other older adults. If you have further questions regarding elder fraud abuse or general care for your aging parent, contact Oasis Senior Advisors today. Call 475.619.4123 or 914.356.1901 or fill out this online form.

Oasis Senior Advisors


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Paul and Susan Doyle

Certified Senior Advisor®

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