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Scams Targeted at the Elderly and How to be Aware of Them

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The elderly and their families need to be aware of scammers that prey on seniors.

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The elderly and their families need to be aware of scammers that prey on seniors. At 60, the brain begins to deteriorate, making those 60 and older more trusting of someone who would seem sketchy to others [1]. There are many forms of scams trying to trick senior citizens out of their retirement and savings. Here are some of the most common scams and how to stay alert for your aging parents.

Funeral Scams
Scammers will go through obituaries in the newspaper and go to funerals or visitations and explain to the surviving spouse that their deceased loved one owed them a lot of money that they are now obligated to pay. Make sure to always do your research and verify they are from a real bank or credible financial establishment. This should always be an automatic red flag.

Junk Mail Schemes
When your parents are receiving letters in the mail from an unknown address, make sure to warn them to be cautious. Many scammers will send the elderly mail asking for charity donations. Typically, scammers will pocket all of the money, asking for very large amounts with a sad story of why it is needed urgently. There is also the scam telling its receivers that they have won a large sum of money through the lottery, but demanding a service fee for release of the award [1].

Always check the return address. If it is not within your county or even state, it is probably a scam. If the return address is a different country or just a PO Box, it's definitely a scam. Be on the lookout for spelling and grammar mistakes, many times scammers are not from the United States and will make these errors [1].

Doorstep/Salesman Scam
Be sure your aging parents are always cautious of those trying to sell them anything at their doorstep. Often these scammers will state they are a government official and need access to some part of the home. Once they gain entry to their home, they will refuse to leave, and wear out your parents pitching them a $500 vacuum cleaner. They may also steal everything of value in sight. With your parents older, they cannot fight off the scammer or get to the phone quick enough to call the police.

In any event, educate your parents to always have the chain on their door when answering to an unknown visitor, and ask for official ID's and documentation of their company. Unless they are little girls in uniforms selling cookies, don't unlock the door.

Telemarketing/Phone Scams
Many telemarketers and phone scammers will call asking for money or donations to seniors' home phones. These phone calls come in many different form.

The “Grandparent Scheme” is often targeted to the elderly. A scammer will call and say something like, “hi grandma, do you know who this is?” and once they guess a grandchild the scammer has established a fake identity [2]. The scammer will then ask for money claiming they can't pay rent or have been in an accident. They may ask to be wired money from an institution such as Western Union and then ask that they don't tell their parents because they are embarrassed. Once they fall for the scam, their information and phone number will be shared with other telemarketer and fraudsters causing the circle to start again.

Make sure your parents know to never give out any personal information (credit card numbers, bank accounts, SSN, etc.) over the phone and if someone seems pushy or threatening to hang up and to call and notify family for help. You can also put seniors' numbers on the National “Do-Not-Call” Registry by calling 1-888-382-1222 or visiting to help limit telemarketer calls [3].

Educating your parents on these scams can help save them from large financial losses and heartache that goes along with the feeling of being duped. An easy way for you to make sure your loved ones are not being taken advantage of is to regularly call and visit them so you're aware of what they do on a regular basis [3].

[1] 8 Scams that Prey on the Elderly, Visulaistan
[2] 8 Costly Scams the target senior citizens, Bankrate
[3] 5 Popular Elderly Scams to be Aware of, Caregivers


The information provided in these articles is intended for informational purposes only. It is not to be construed as the opinion of Central Bancompany, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and does not imply endorsement or support of any of the mentioned information, products, services, or providers. All information presented is without any representation, guaranty, or warranty regarding the accuracy, relevance, or completeness of the information.