Scamming Seniors: How to Avoid 3 Popular Cons

May 22, 2014

振り込め詐欺Scammers are opportunists, and they often choose to prey on seniors due to impairments in judgment that often come with age. Seniors are sometimes overly trusting, and isolation and loneliness can make them vulnerable to falling for a con. Additionally, technological naiveté can cause seniors to get caught up in a scam that involves financial jargon or overly technical language. Fortunately, by being aware of popular scams that are occurring every day, you can help to protect your elderly loved ones against these cons.

The Grandchild Scam

According to the National Council on Aging, many seniors have been targeted by the grandchild scam. In this situation, scammers will call an older adult, and when the individual answers, the con artist will claim to be the mark’s grandchild. Often the conversation begins with the caller asking, “Hi Grandpa. Do you know who this is?” When the grandparent guesses the name of his or her grandchild, the scammer is then able to establish a fake identity and will ask for financial assistance.

In order to avoid this scam, it is important that you let your elderly loved ones know that if they ever receive a call claiming to be a relative, they should always check the story with other relatives before acting. They should also ask to call the individual back after verifying the information. Since many people put family information on social media sites, encourage your loved one to still be suspicious of the call, even if the caller seems to have personal information about them.

Medicare and Medicaid Scams

Scammers often target seniors over the age of 65 because almost all of them are Medicare beneficiaries. With this scam, elderly people will receive a call claiming to be from Medicare or Medicaid stating that they need to have their card replaced. This is simply a ruse used to get the personal information from the senior to use for identity theft.

To keep your aging loved ones safe, make sure they know to never give out personal information over the phone, especially banking information or their social security number. They should always be suspicious of calls claiming to represent an official agency. Teach your loved ones that if they receive a call of this nature to ask to call the agency back. Then, they should call the number on the back of their card to verify the validity of the initial call.

Lottery Scams

While this is one of the oldest scams out there, many seniors still fall victim to lottery scams each year. With this con, victims are told that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes, but they are then asked to make a payment in order to release or unlock their winnings. Seniors that fall for this ruse usually receive a check that appears to have great value, but once they cash it, it will bounce. During that lag time, the criminals will collect the funds they requested for taxes or fees regarding the prize, and the victim will be out of that money forever.

To avoid this scam, it is important to remind your aging loved ones that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. They should also remember that if they had really won a lottery jackpot, a mysterious caller would not be asking them to pay fees within only a day or two of their award. These calls should also be reported to the local authorities.

Vulnerable seniors are often targeted by criminals, so it is important to discuss these possibilities with your aging loved ones. Knowledge is power, and by reviewing some of the most common scams with them, you can help to prevent the senior in your life from falling victim to a con artist.

For more information on these and other scams you can visit:

As frauds and scams continue to evolve with technology any of us can all victim.  It’s critical to stay updated and informed on what to look for!

About the Author

Doug Breuer is co-founder of and has worked in senior care for the last 9 years for the State of Oregon. From investigating cases of elder abuse to managing the delivery of long term care to residents of Central Oregon, Doug has been involved in all aspects of senior care.

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