No wonder scams on seniors are more frequent nowadays than a few decades ago. Today’s seniors are usually wealthier and have more accessible money than younger people. Seniors have savings, pension plans, they own homes and might have other financial assets and are more trusting than someone younger. Scammers take all this into consideration and view seniors as an easy target.
Older people are less likely to be alert, due to the cognitive skills that decline by aging. They might also be living alone with no one to discuss decisions first. They might be lonely. Elderly are also usually polite listeners.
Older people might be not very knowledgeable with technologies, so it is much easier to “sell them” a story relying on the internet or involving mobile phones or other devices. All this makes them an ideal target for a scam.
This is one of the scams that is specially “designed” to work with granddad or grandma. You suddenly get a call, usually late at night from your grandson or granddaughter who is calling as he/she is in trouble and urgently needs money for bail. Maybe for medical expenses in the hospital after a car accident. Or lawyer’s fees. Perhaps for some kind of bribe to cover some huge trouble they got in.
The grandparent is asked not to tell to Mom and Dad, as the grandchild does not want them to know about the trouble they got in. It is always urgent to send the money and usually wired, by MoneyGram, or sent in cash by FedEx or similar service, which does not check that closely the identity of the receiver.
You are instantly fooled as your mind is filled with worry and need to help and protect your grandchild, not leaving any room for rational thinking. You rush to do what you are asked to and that’s the moment you part with that money forever. I’ve heard of a grandpa that was called again in a few hours to send another couple of thousands, as this was not enough for all the expenses. Sadly, he did.
Another one that passes well in elderly, but people of other ages might be targeted. If your grandchildren are younger and they beg their parents for a puppy, you will probably browse advertising pages to see whether you could buy a puppy and make them happy.
You finally see a photo of a most adorable puppy, selling for a favorable price and you instantly contact the seller. Turns out the seller is far away and the puppy needs to be shipped, sent by plane usually.
You hear a story behind the low price (moving, financial troubles the owner has, one more born than planned, someone canceled at the last moment, etc). By that time you are already in love with the puppy you saw a picture of, you consider yourself lucky and make a deal.
You are asked to wire a couple hundreds and you are sent a contract, given a delivery date, maybe even a photo of the plane ticket for the puppy. A few hours before the puppy should check in, you receive a call or a mail from the shipping company, saying there are unexpected expenses, as the puppy is either first time flier, or needs a special crate, now due to Covid-19, or insurance which is demanded by the government and which will be refunded after the puppy arrives safely.
The seller is not around at the moment to deal with these expenses, but you can resolve it later with him, as you will have all the receipts, and you have the contract, you are told. You need to act quickly, in order to get the puppy on that plane, so you send the money.
Only later you find out that there was neither a real shipping company, nor a puppy, as a matter of fact. The contract is also signed by a non-existing breeder or person and you are left out of your pocket.
The elderly are also more likely to donate to charities, that’s why they are more often approached with this kind of scam.
You might be contacted by someone who claims to work for a known charity. Or it would sound like a known one. They might even knock on your door. It is for a cause that you would want to help with and you decide to give a donation. But, you should think twice before you do it.
You might be asked for a cash right there on your doorstep, or asked by phone to wire your donation, even send someone to collect the donation, so to make it easier for you. These should all warn you, as chances are it is a scam.
The number of charity fraud attempt drastically jumps after any natural or other disaster, when scammers can count on your good heart and your compassion for poor affected people.
How do you know a charity approaching you is legitimate? If they are at your door or you meet them in front of a supermarket, they will have proper identification and will not rush you to give money quickly. They will be able to explain you in details what they do and what they collect money for. You can ask for material being delivered to you so you can think about it. Or can get their website address, so you can research and take your time before you decide.
Youngster Stuck Away From Home With No Money
A ring for a ticket home. Usually played not too far from bus or train stations, by school-age girls, targeting especially older people. You pass by a youngster who looks very sad and a deep sight leaves her mouth at the moment you are the closest. You notice she almost cries and you have the feeling something is terribly wrong. She might even sob a bit.
The girl looks very decent, is well-dressed, and gives the impression of a well-mannered youngster. You slow down a bit and you are addressed. Someone stole her wallet and she can’t go home since she has no money for a ticket. And, today is Mom’s birthday, and she can’t buy her even some flower, let alone a present. She might act a bit shy.
Could you help her out? in order to ensure you she is by all means going to repay you the next day, the girl will either ask for your address, or ask you to come back tomorrow. While on the edge of crying, she takes off a ring, or some other piece of jewelry, a valuable, precious piece which was a gift or the only thing left from her beloved late Grandma. You instantly picture your grandchildren in the same trouble and you are roasted.
She insists you take the ring and tell you to keep it safe until she brings you the money. You give her money for the ticket, and add more for a dinner, as you hear she has not eaten the whole day, maybe you even add for a nice bouquet for Mom. You will get it back tomorrow anyway, right? Wrong. The ring is a cheap fake and you’ll never see the girl nor your money again. This is several decades old scam, but, surprisingly, still working.
A Company Representative Impostor Scam
You are usually contacted by phone. The voice at the other side says he is calling from a gas company, from TV licensing, from energy providing company, or similar. They run a special promotion where you can have the service for half of the price if you pay it forward for some time, half a year or a year. You were chosen randomly by a computer, but you need to act right now, as, if you do not want it, the computer is choosing the next random customer.
All you need to do is accept the promotion and allow the payment. They will arrange the paper work to be sent to you in a couple of days, to sign it. They will also arrange the payment, you only need to give them your card details and the huge discount is yours.
This scam especially targets older people, who can be suddenly caught by a desire to save big and, as the impostors are very skilled and know how to act to sound as officials, elderly often actually happily give the card details, feeling as it was their lucky day. On the contrary, unfortunately.
An Urgent Call, Preventing Some Very Serious Consequences
Government impostors may present themselves as calling from tax office, claiming you have some unpaid taxes and even threaten you with prosecuting or even arresting if you don’t pay immediately. This last one is terrifying for older people, so they do whatever they are told, out of fear of having any conflict with the authorities.
They may be calling from a “bank”, saying you have a loan debt and they are about to sue you, only they are giving you a last chance to clear yourself and avoid more serious consequences. Even if you know you don’t have any loan, you might think someone impersonated you in a bank and took a loan in your name. You decide to put an end to the claim and to find out the details later, when you are off the hook already. But, in fact, you just got yourself onto the hook, wiring the allegedly outstanding amount of money.
A caller might inform you that your card was suspended, as it was involved in a suspicious activity and it will be revoked or terminated unless you verify the data. They will ask your card number, your pin, your account number, your middle name, your maiden name and anything else they can use to put hands on your money or/and your identity.
Remember, even if the suspension would be true, the bank would never ask you to reveal those details over a phone. Never give anyone these details.
I met a person who was offered a card protection insurance, for 200 a year. Luckily, this person knew that the original card issuer, his bank has a voluntary protection for free, as most of the issuers do.
Do not believe emails coming allegedly from some service you subscribed for (Netflix, Amazon…), saying they could not authorize payment for your next billing cycle of your subscription therefore we have suspended your account. It usually goes on to say click a button to restart membership, etc. DO NOT click the button.
You will either be lured into entering your payment details into some online form (card number, pin or cc) or trigger installing a malware capable of getting into anything on your computer, aiming to find your personal and bank details.
Always check the address they are coming from. They might be disguised as a Customer Service, but, when you open it by a small arrow at the end of the name of the address, you might see something like this: sgL8M30fX4ZAE9T-fcwb6B9CHCOon8R5@1bzSnju0S-84171136. Or entirely different, but obviously not from the organization they claim to be.
Government Grant or Other Non-Repayable Help
Government impostors proposing a government grant, as way to “help pensioners, people with low incomes, single mothers, those who lost their job, people with high loan debts, high mortgages or help you through pandemics now”, etc. Always the one you might be affected by. Sometimes it is accompanied with a fantastic prospect of not needing to pay it back.
You will be told you can have it, as the government is trying to help “those most vulnerable” and the caller can check if you qualify. They need your personal details and your Social Security number in USA or National Insurance number in UK, your bank account number to check your incomes as these play role in whether you are or are not eligible to receive a grant, sometimes a whopping 100.000 or even more.
If they couldn’t collect enough details from you to help themselves from your account, they will call you back confirming that you qualify and they are sending you the papers for receiving tens and tens of thousands. In the meantime, you only need to pay a processing fee, or tax, or shipping fee for a large sum, all payable in advance, by wiring the money or through a cash app, sometimes in bit coins, or gift cards.
So, be aware-and think! What government is going to sprinkle the grants just like that and even call you to offer you one? You don’t have to pay back a huge sum of money? And, even if any of that would be true, you would have to apply for that grant first. Also, they would never ask your personal details by phone or in an e-mail. If government decides to be generous with money and grant you some, they will not ask for processing or any similar fee, especially not in cash or gift cards.
Facebook or Email Hijack
You may receive an email from a friends email address asking for urgent help as he got stuck somewhere abroad, usually some exotic country, in some kind of trouble, promising to repay you all the money you’ll send him to help him out. There is always a reason why they can’t access their own account and money (sitting in prison in Dubai for approaching a pretty girl on the street, which is illegal there. Money needed to give her to drop the charges…).
Your friend, in reality has nothing to do with this-his email was hijacked and therefore it appears genuine. Not checking such claims by calling the friend directly, on a known number, instead of the one potentially provided in the email, can result in being deprived of quite a sum of money.
The message can also come through your friends hijacked Facebook site. The above mentioned government grant was recommended to an acquaintance of mine through a respectable, trustworthy “Facebook friend” who allegedly already received the grant of 120.000. Only after a good couple of days the truth was reveled. His profile was hijacked and he knew nothing about any kind of grants.
This scam comes in all sorts of varieties, but the point is always you get a check you need to deposit in the bank and then wire a portion of it to someone.
It can be a vehicle add wrapping offer. You are asked to have adverts stuck to the side of your car and sometimes you are required to drive a certain amount of miles, or kilometers. You will receive in advance a check containing your first-week pay and the cost of the custom-made wrap that will be placed on your car.
You will be asked to take out your pay from the amount on the check and wire the rest to the “artist” doing the wrapping. Then you take the check to your bank, get the money and send the asked sum to the artist. Later, the check may bounce back, because it was a forgery.
If you wait a week or so until the bank confirms it is valid, you might avoid the loss. Otherwise, you end up owing your bank the whole amount plus the scammers got away with the money you wired.
The check might bounce back even after the bank confirmed it was valid, but “You are protected and can keep the funds from the check provided you are not a knowing party to fraud or have been negligent in some way and have kept to the terms and conditions of your account” as you can read here
You might receive a check in order to become a mystery shopper, and even be offered a bonus if you complete the listed assignments in 48 hours. Of course, you also need to buy some gift cards and prove you did by sending pictures of the gift cards with the pin scratched off to the given mobile phone number or e-mail.
You might apply for a work from home and be told you will need to buy some software to be able to work. You will be given the exact links where to buy them and sent a check. The links are fake and you’ll end up paying money to the scammers. The check is fake, as well, so you end up owing to your bank.
You might even be contacted from a “bank officer” from a distant, not very developed country saying that in a terrible car accident a very wealthy client of their died with no next of kin to claim the millions stuck in that bank. The poor deceased happen to have the same surname as you, and he, the clerk, may be able to arrange that you become the next of kin and collect the huge amount, if you agree to reward him with 10% of the sum-in cash and in advance, of course.
Maybe the oldest among this type of scams has been known as Nigerian scam, as the email usually came from a Nigerian prince or princess who claimed to be stuck in some foreign country after escaping people, who were after his/her life, murdering his/her father, the king. Seniors have a huge fortune hidden in a Swiss or Canadian bank, but need some financial support and a partner to get there and get hold of it. So, if you’ll help, they are willing to share the fortune with you. This has been circulating at least for three decades, but I still occasionally hear someone who received a mail like this, which means it still has some success rate.
scams are also frequent. They might be about you winning a huge prize on lottery, or some random sweepstakes with a huge prize fond. You might have “inherited money” from a very distant relative you never knew existed.
The relative passed away with no one closer than you and the caller is an attorney who is so happy he finally found a living next of kin to hand over the huge wealth. He will sound enthusiastic and will manage to persuade you of the authenticity of the inheritance.
However, before you can claim either your inheritance, or prize or whatever the cover story uses as a bait, you’ll be asked to cover “taxes” or “customs”, “transaction fees” , “shipping”, “insurance” or some other expenses that will sound quite reasonable to you.
Of course, the moment the scammer receives the money you sent all the communication stops and you are again left out of your pocket.
This might even be combined with the check scam. An acquaintance of mine answered she had not that kind of money-the “attorney” than proposed to send her a check as an advanced payment on her inheritance, so she could cash it in and wire back the needed amount.
You are introduced an investment opportunity “of your life”, where you can easily double your money in a short period, with no risk. Whoever tells you this, even if someone very close to you, do not believe it. Not always because the person is lying to you, but because he/she was misled as well.
There is no such thing as investing with no risk and gaining highly and quickly. All investments are tied to some risk on returns and even on the principal part usually. The best you can do is ask for advice from an entirely independent, professional financial expert.
Working at Home on Assembly of Toys, Clothes, Tools…
You will be asked to effectively buy the parts you are going to work on, as the company have had already people, who disappeared with their valuable parts and they tell you they will buy them back from you once you completed the assembly.
You may or may not receive the parts, but once you paid, you’ll never hear from them again, as they sold you worthless parts they couldn’t to anyone else.
My friend’s story from recent days. She saw a great multi tool men’s bracelet, which originally branded sells for 150-200 pounds. This one was offered for 60. As it is made of stainless steel and the characteristics of the steel were the same in both, she thought there isn’t any real difference, apart from the brand name.
She ordered three, for all her men in the family, for the price of one branded bracelet. A huge mistake. She received three worthless, entirely different bracelets. And the negotiation started by email-they were sorry but wanted to help her (!).
They offered first a 20%, then 30%, 45%, even 60% discount and she could keep these. They warned her not to go to PayPal with a complaint, as this will “last unnecessarily long”. Needless to say, she did and eventually got the full refund, but ended up paying 15 pounds of return shipment.
Especially effective on elderly. You receive a call from “Microsoft Technical Support”, saying something is wrong with your computer and it will be shut down unless they fix the problem remotely, for a fee.
On your computer suddenly a message may appear saying your IP address was used in a suspicious activity, or someone was trying to steal your identity, so they can make your computer safe remotely for, let’s say 200 a year, or 399 for three years.
You let them access your computer remotely and that is the moment when identity theft might be happening. Beware of any kind of technical support that approaches you, without you contacting them first. Even than, search for their phone numbers independently, do not accept any number provided in these messages.
The “King of All Scams”
The most profitable one targets people who are lonely and long for a true relationship. It starts as an innocent chat on any of the social media sites. The other side seems to be very interested in your company, very often romantically.
If it is a man, he is usually somewhere far away, working for an oil company, or is a first officer on a cruiser, or is a high ranked military person on a distant mission, maybe marine engineer/ biologist or similar.
Otherwise, he is either widowed or divorced for many years as his wife was cheating on him, and he is so happy that he found you, who might be his true love. The relationship is developing fast and seems perfect. You move from social media to texting or emailing.
He can’t actually talk, always for some believable reason-time difference, not convenient while at work, bad connection…After some time, however, some hints of a financial problem seem to be in place.
He has some sudden problems accessing his accounts and he urgently needs funds to close a favorable business deal which could free him to come to visit you, or needs to cover expenses for his sons tuition in a boarding school somewhere in the wide world, or…well, you get the idea.
If it is a woman, the story is similar. Either a doctor on a mission in Africa, or also a military person on a mission, under a contract there, but will come back to see you when she is done.
She starts falling in love and is anxious to meet you in person, but just as she wanted to purchase the plane ticket, her account got tied up for some reason, so she asks a small loan to buy the ticket and will pay you back when she meets you, then she gets ripped of her belongings and her passport, her phone…And so on.
One of the Rudest Scams I Heard of
was when an older gentlemen received a phone call saying he was recorded through his lap top camera, while he was visiting an adult site and “having fun”. If he will not wire the requested amount of money, the caller will send the video to all his contacts, but first to his granddaughter. The scammer’s bad luck was that this gentleman did not own a laptop, but an ordinary desktop computer without a camera and he never visited an adult site, he said. However, some other poor elderly might have and therefore would be willing to pay, out of fear to be publicly deeply embarrassed, especially in a grandchild’s eyes.
You would think some scams are easy to see through. You wouldn’t believe, but most of these happened to people I personally know. People who are otherwise smart, careful in everyday life. People who say if someone had told them about a scam they have been involved in, they would have been very surprised the person did not see through it. Still, they themselves were blinded and often believed the scam was a reality. The moment, the urging, the skilled scammers, the wish to possess something, the fear of losing a good deal, a bit of greed to get something for nothing and the gullibility-all led to being scammed. These “weaknesses” are exactly the ones scammers count on. And, they try it on many, so, if the fraud doesn’t work with one or two persons, it will work with the 10th or 20th. Someone will take the bait.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
Do not, under any circumstances “verify” you personal, account or bank card details to anyone asking for it. Official and legitimate organizations, agencies, companies will never ask you to do it, either in a phone call or on a website, let alone a pop-up window. If you suspect it still might be a legitimate call, ask for the name, and workplace of the person calling and say you’ll call back, than hang up. Do not accept the phone number you might be offered by that person, but find the relevant contact on your own. Then you can check if the call was genuine.
Install an anti-spyware, anti-virus, firewall programs to minimize the possibility of so called phishing mails and other hackers-used technics to be applied on your device.
If you realize you’ve been hooked by a phishing activity, provided account numbers, PINS, and passwords, do not hesitate even for a moment. Notify immediately the companies issuing the card or holding your accounts that you gave away information about and change all your passwords, pins even on the rest of your accounts.
Do not believe there could be ANY reason to be asked to wire or otherwise send cash back to someone who sent you a check, even if they claim to have made a mistake and paid you more. Send back the check and ask for one with the correct amount, or even better insist on different type of payment.
Become alert if anyone is pressuring you to act immediately, sign right now or give away any money which you did not intend. Any legitimate charity or similar will be happy to give you all the time you need.
Always check any unexpected call, even if you think you know who it is coming from. It may turn out you are completely mistaking and talking to a scammer.
Generally, if you can make yourself to take a step back and have a second look at whatever they find you with, it will help you to spot their mistakes and identify a fraud-as also, there is no such thing as perfect scam, just targeting your vulnerabilities.
If you are a senior, I honestly hope you never have and will never come across any of these. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of the known scams. They could make you more alert when they come up with new ones-because they will.
If your loved one is a senior, let them know about these. It will also give you a piece of mind to know they are a bit less easy target now.
Have you experienced any of these? Or something different? Have I missed some type of scam against elderly you know about? Let me know in the comments-I’ll appreciate it and so will everyone who reads it, to be warned about a possible fraud.
Stay safe from scammers.
Kerryanne.When you buy something from this website, I may receive an affiliate commission, at no extra cost to you. Full disclosure here