Financial Scams Elders Face

According to an FBI report of 2020, senior citizens across America collectively lost almost $1 billion to financial scams. This statistic covers a total of 105,301 people over the age of 65, who lost an average of $9,175 per person. Almost 2,000 seniors lost more than $100,000.

In comparison to other age groups, older adults are more likely to fall victim to financial scams. While no two individuals are exactly alike, the reasons seniors tend to fall prey to these schemes come down to two factors—social isolation and decreased cognitive capacity. Some seniors may be less likely to think critically about a potential scam due to their desire to continue the conversation. This leads them to be taken advantage of and lose large sums of money as a result.

Over the years, there has grown to be a pattern in the financial scams that elders face. Below are a few common scams, and how to recognize them.

Grandchild-in-need scam

This is possibly the most well-known fraud on this list, yet it still impacts thousands of seniors a year. In this scenario, the caller pretends to be a grandchild in trouble. They claim that to get out of whatever situation they’ve landed themselves in, they need money.

To string their victim along while further isolating them, the scammer often expresses embarrassment and asks that their grandparent not tell anyone. They may ask for funds through gift cards, wire transfers, or mailed payments.

The best way to avoid this scam is to ask who it is that is calling. Many times, these scammers will simply say “Hey Grandma…” and the victim fills in the blank with one of their grandchildren’s names. The thief responds positively and the scam is in motion. Always ask the caller to confirm their name without prompting one.

If, following the call, you are still uncomfortable, call your grandchild or other family members to ensure they are all right.

Fake government calls

Fake government scams can come in a few different forms. A common tactic is for the caller to say they’re with the Social Security Administration or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). They claim there is an issue with a senior’s account and will ask for crucial personal information, such as their Social Security Number or bank account details.

The scammers rationalize this to their victims by claiming this is the most efficient way to “fix the problem.” They may even strike fear into their victim by threatening criminal punishment, which is enough for many seniors to cave to the pressure.

While the thought of owing money to the government is frightening, there is an easy way to identify this as a scam. Neither organizations call to collect debts. They will always send a series of certified letters, and the same goes for financial institutions. To be certain all is well, reach out to the organization yourself.

Medical scams

Scams involving Medicare are some of the easiest to execute for con artists. Because such a large portion of older people are on Medicare, scammers rarely need to research what insurance company their victim uses. There are two common Medicare scams that you should be aware of.

In the first example, the con artist requires information from their victim to fix a problem or “protect them from scammers.” In the second, the thief insists that there is a processing fee for a Medicare card, or that they can receive a refund for an old card. Remember: Medicare sends your card for free. There are no taxes or fees involved.

During the height of the pandemic, many seniors experienced COVID-19 vaccine scams. Con artists asked for important information like Social Security or Medicaid Numbers in order to skip a line or to receive exclusive access to vaccines before others. There was never a promise to get on an exclusive list or skip lines—seniors had priority from the beginning.

Lottery Scam

These scams start with the con artist reaching out to inform their victim that they’ve won some sort of lottery or sweepstakes. All they need to do to access their newly found riches is pay a sweepstakes fee. They then receive a check to deposit in their bank account, and a few days later, that check bounces. The scam artist walks away with that “sweepstakes fee,” and the victim can lose thousands of dollars.

Do not participate in any sweepstakes or lottery that you can’t confirm its authenticity. A common scam uses the name Publisher’s Clearing House for its claim to legitimacy, but that organization will not charge any fee. In general, most sweepstakes won’t charge you a fee, so always be wary of that.

Tech support scams

This form of fraud is slightly different from the others, as they often start via an email, text, or website pop-up. The message insists that there is a problem with one’s device, and instructs the victim to call a specific number.

If the victim calls the number, the thief claims to be from “tech support.” They’ll convince the senior to let them take remote control access to the computer, which allows them to view all sorts of important information. They may also demand payment to fix the device’s issue.

Pop-ups such as these are never genuine. If you go on a website and receive one of these pop-ups, immediately leave the site. If the con artist reaches out to you via text, block that number.

Tips to avoid being scammed

The list above of fraud older Americans experience only just scratches the surface. Scammers are, unfortunately, trickier and have more means than ever to perpetrate their schemes. Remember these critical pieces of information to ensure you don’t fall for any of the financial scams elders face.


  • Provide personal identifying, banking, or credit card information over the phone.
  • Allow anyone to pressure you into making any financial decisions immediately.
  • Let yourself be emotionally manipulated.
  • Mail or deliver cash payments. Legitimate businesses do not accept cash for debts.


  • Set up bank account alerts.
  • Make sure your phone has scam alert protection.

Report suspected fraud to the police and/or the Federal Trade Commission, which contacts information about scam reports. Financial exploitation is elder abuse, and it should be taken seriously.

Reliable Home Care

If you live alone, it can be difficult to ascertain what is a scam and what isn’t. Make sure you reach out to a relative or an emergency contact if you are confused.

If you require assistance in your home, an at-home caregiver can help. Home Care Powered by AUAF’s caregivers will be there for any of your in-home care needs. Whether you need assistance with personal care, meal preparation, or companionship, our staff will be there. Call 773-274-9262 for more information.

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