Updated January 30, 2021 – Older adults are very often the target for a con artist and the number of scams aimed at defrauding seniors and the elderly are plenty. In addition to online scams such as a tech support scam and phishing scams, there are some phone scams and mail scams that are still being used today.
Here Are The Top 7 Scams Aimed At Older Adults
1. Healthcare Scams
In a healthcare scam, a senior will get a phone call saying something like they need a new Medicare card or health insurance card. Or they may be told there is a discount on their insurance if they act on the phone call. Then, the con artist will go on to ask for date of birth and/or the social security number.
How To Avoid The Healthcare Scam
First, you should NEVER give out your bank account, credit card information, social security number, etc. to anyone who calls YOU.
So, the best thing to do is to hang up and then call the company the caller said they were representing.
If you initiate the call then you know that you are contacting the company itself.
I often will put the caller’s phone number into my internet browser or do a Google search on the phone number and, many times, it will come up as a reported scam phone number.
2. Medical Alert Robocalls
Robocallers are certainly annoying, but sometimes they can be terrifying, too. As I just mentioned in the section above, how many times have you gotten a call claiming to be from a loan company, the Internal Revenue Service, or even the FBI?
Many adults know these calls are fake, but trusting seniors might not.
These medical alert robocalls tell the senior they could get a personal medical alert system for free, says The Senior List.
Sometimes, the scammer will take it a step further by mentioning that the senior could also receive something else – say, grocery coupons valued up to a $1,000. That’s a tough offer for seniors on a fixed income to turn down, and so, many seniors jump at the chance to get something for free.
The Senior List goes on to mention that this scam began sometime in 2018 and, sadly, still seems to be running strong.
How To Avoid The Medical Alert Robocall Scam
The best thing to do is to never answer the phone and simply let it go to voicemail. Then check that voicemail immediately afterwards.
Of course – I know this is very difficult for many older adults.
So, the next best thing to do is to NEVER give out any information to anyone you do not know. Instead, take down their name and phone number (although you will not be using their phone number).
And instead, call the company they claim to be representing and speak to someone there.
3. Spam Call From Senior Benefits Companies
Besides the Grandparent Scam, seniors are also susceptible to a common scam by con artists pretending to be calling from a senior benefits companies.
To illustrate, lately we’ve gotten several phone messages at our house, informing us that we need to return the call because there has been an error in our Social Security benefits.
I know this is a scam because no one in my house is at the age where we can collect Social Security, but you can see how a trusting senior might think the call is legitimate.
By dialing from different numbers at all hours of the day or night and leaving messages like this, a scammer can scare the senior into answering or returning the phone call.
Once they have the senior on the line, the scammer asks for sensitive information pertaining to the elder’s pension or benefits.
If they can get info like the senior’s credit card info or other financial details, they surely will as well.
How To Avoid These Scam Phone Calls
As I mentioned above – the simplest solution is to not answer the phone but if you must then DO NOT give out any information, no matter how official they may sound.
Instead, take down their information and then call the company that they say they are representing and speak to a person there.
4. Phony Company Representatives At Your Door
In addition to getting phone calls from fake representatives there are also con artists who go door to door claiming they represent a specific company.
This scam works very well with security companies because most of us put out the “This home is secured by … ” sign so that’s a clear invitation to a scammer who knows you are using that company’s services.
The con artist can gain access to your home, rob you or worse. Or they can just gather information from you that they should not have.
Here’s a great little video from Ackerman Security on this very issue.
How To Avoid Fake Door To Door Scam Artists
First and foremost, you should NEVER open the door for someone you do not know. Even if they are wearing a shirt or badge that seems to be from a company.
You also should NEVER avoid answering the door if you are home. Reason being that if the person intends to break in – if they think you are not home – they may just go ahead and try to break in.
Best thing to do is to ask them to leave their information or to ask them to wait while you call the company they are supposedly representing to find out if they have representatives in your area.
5. Scams On Siri, Alexa and Google Home
The newest scam practice now involve the use of voice activated devices such as Siri, Alexa and Google Home.
This is how it works:
- A user asks their device to search for a business to call them
- The scammers have paid to promote fake business entries for that business
- Alexa or Google Home or Siri then calls the fake phone number thinking it’s the valid one
- The scammers then ask for remote access to your computer, direct you to a fake website, talk you into purchasing special promotional gift cards, etc.
Google and Amazon are working to stop this type of scam but of course, it all takes time.
“These scammers use a wide range of deceptive techniques to try to game our system,” Ethan Russell, product director for Google Maps acknowledged at the time. “As we shut them down, they change their techniques, and the cycle continues.” – Forbes.com
How To Avoid Being Scammed By A Voice Search
The simple solution is to avoid using these devices to make the phone call for you.
You can ask for the phone number, then type that phone number into your search engine and see if it matches the phone number for the business.
Or you can simply search for that business in your search engine and get the phone number that way.
If you use or anticipate to use this business often I would recommend to go ahead and put them in your list of contacts. That way, the next time you want to call them you can ask your device to call them directly from your address book.
6. Charity Scams
Being conned to donate money to a fake charity is an old scam that is still being used effectively today.
It’s sad to say, but these often pop up after a tragic event and/or a major disaster such as a hurricane or bombing, etc.
The scam can begin with a phone call, an email, snail mail or any other form of solicitation.
How To Avoid Charity Scams
Before you write that check to donate any money to any charity – check to ensure that it is a legit organization by validating it on these sites:
7. Funeral and Cemetery Scams
Scammers and con artists have little to no morals so they can, without guilt, try to scam older adults in any venue – including a funeral of their loved one. In fact, this is so prevalent, that the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) in the USA has information about it on their website.
There are a few scams having to do with funerals and cemeteries…
- Funeral homes can perpetrate the scams by overcharging for services and/or products – it’s easy to take advantage of most anyone when they are in an emotional state.
- Funeral homes that require full payment upfront.
- Scammers will attend the funeral and approach the grieving spouse with the claim that the deceased owed them money (which of course is not true).
- Surviving family members may receive a phone call or email advising them there is an unpaid balance owed for the funeral and/or cemetery.
- Donation programs set up to help pay for a baby’s funeral. This could come in the form of an email or phone call or you might even see a jar at your local store collecting dollars.
How To Avoid Funeral and Cemetery Scams
Believe me when I tell you that when you are grieving or emotional, you do not make the best decisions!
So, before you plunk down any money for any type of charity – follow these two rules that I learned after making some bad decisions after my husband passed away.
- wait 3 or 4 days to think it over
- talk to as many friends and family as you can about the decision you are considering making
This should help you to avoid being taken.
In addition to these types of swindles there are also many that occur online such as technical support scams in addition to others.
These are just some of the scams that are prevalent today targeting older adults.
The best way to protect yourself is to assume that any notification you receive from an unknown source is a scam. Then investigate it and do not take any action until you have been assured by reliable sources that whatever they are asking of you, is true.
One resource we can recommend is Money Smart – which is a resource guide to help older adults and caregivers to “…prevent, recognize, and report financial exploitation.” Another is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau where you can submit a complaint about a financial product or service.