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What are some common scams that target the elderly?

It’s a sad fact that many scam artists target the elderly for financial gain.

These scams can take on many forms, exist online, via traditional mail, and even involve telephone contact directly with a potential victim.

In some cases, the person perpetrating the fraud may present themselves as a government agency, a bank or financial institution, a charity, or even impersonate a family member in peril requesting cash.

Modern scam artists are increasingly sophisticated in the ways they work, often use technology to appear legitimate, and will even go so far as to prey upon those sympathetic for other who are the victims of well-known natural disasters.

Increasingly, online fraud involves fraudulent websites which look identical to a legitimate charitable organization or agency, but which is really a false front by which the scam artist collects donations or payments which are really intended for another recipient.

As Seniors are often targeted, they should never provide credit or debit card numbers over the phone or online when contacted unsolicited.

If Seniors want to donate to a charity, or even make some online payments, they should be sure confirm the appropriate contact information with the organization directly before doing so.

The National Council on Aging explains some common scams targeting seniors and provides tips on how you can avoid being a victim, and provides an easy to use resource for Seniors who would like to take further steps to protect themselves.

We recommend that everyone – especially Seniors – become familiar with these types of common scams, and always proceed with caution if there is any doubt about making a payment, or providing financial and/or pedigree information to a third party that is not known to you personally.

Another common fraud involves impersonating the Social Security office. Callers will either use threats or claim that the person has an inactive Social Security number with the aim to help the person reactivate it. Be aware that unless there was pre-established contact, the Social Security office rarely calls individuals unsolicited. Additionally, agents working with this office never make threats involving legal action or arrests, no matter what the issue is concerning. If you receive such a call, your best course of action is to hang up. 

The “grandparents scam” is particularly heinous, since it involves impersonating a senior’s grandchild and asking for money as a result of some kind of accident or legal misadventure. While in the past scam artists would request wire transfers or even gift cards, the scam has evolved slightly so that targets are asked to send cash. Additionally, instructions are often complex, such as divvying up bills and placing them within the pages of a magazine. If you receive a call, don’t act until you verify with your grandchild or another family member that the situation has actually taken place. 

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