Watch out for these scams aimed at tricking older adults into bad financial situations.

3 minute read

Whether you’re an older adult or have aging parents who could become an easy target for scammers, knowing the most common scams and frauds targeting seniors helps guard against becoming their next victim. Even if you feel like you or your parents could never get duped by a scam phone call, phishing email or fishy investment deal, seniors frequently fall prey to fraud and identity theft scams.

“Scammers target older adults because they are perceived as easier to persuade and generally have access to greater financial resources,” according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). “Retired people are more likely to be at home to answer the door or telephone.”

Curious about identity theft and fraud schemes aimed at older adults and ways to prevent becoming a scammer’s next victim?

Below are the top five scams targeting seniors and their money.

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1. Phone fraud imposters

Scammers love to call older adults, betting on the chance that a senior is an easy target due to not being tech-savvy. These scammers also have a good chance of getting a person with cognitive impairment – 1 in 3 adults over the age of 80 has dementia – on the line to provide a Social Security number that can be used for identity theft or a credit card number.

Robocalls may falsely threaten to discontinue the person’s Social Security number if they don’t call back and “verify” the number. Scam callers may also impersonate government officials or bank employees asking the person to provide Social Security, bank or credit account information in order to steal the person’s identity or money.

Find out: What Debt Collectors Don’t Want Seniors to Know

2. Emergency phone scams

The “emergency scam” has been around for a while, but older adults can still fall for it if they’re not familiar with how much information about themselves and their family members is available online. The scam kicks off with a phone call from someone claiming to be your grandchild, niece or nephew or other family member.

Then the caller claims to have an emergency – maybe getting into a car accident or robbed while in a foreign country – and asks you to wire money. Don’t get out the checkbook or call Western Union, though. Hang up fast instead and call a real relative associated with the alleged caller.

Find out: Is One of These 5 Retirement Communities Right for You?

3. Medical equipment Medicare fraud

This scam defrauds Medicare but uses seniors to initiate the scheme. Callers badger Medicare recipients into accepting “free durable medical equipment” such as knee braces, back braces or walkers and then fraudulently bill Medicare for it.

“By law, no one is allowed to make unsolicited calls to consumers about durable medical equipment,” says the BBB. “If you get such a call, just hang up.”

Find out: How Seniors’ Bank Accounts Are Protected From Garnishment

4. Doorstep contractors

If you need renovation or landscaping, never hire a contractor who knocks on your door with big promises of a good deal on siding, roofing or another expensive project. Instead, ask friends and family for referrals for a good contractor or company and then read unbiased customer reviews online and at the Better Business Bureau.

Find out: Not Saving for Retirement? Here’s a Look at Your Future

5. Romance scams

Widowed or divorced seniors are especially susceptible to “sweetheart swindles,” says the BBB. Scammers create fake profiles with compelling backstories on dating sites and social media platforms, often claiming to be temporarily overseas or otherwise unavailable for an in-person meeting.

The relationship could take months to develop, until eventually, your new “soulmate” asks for money to help with medical expenses, family troubles or another sad story that opens your heart — and your wallet. “Once the con artist receives the funds, they disappear for good,” warns the BBB.

To protect yourself from romance scams, never send money or sensitive personal information such as your Social Security number that could be used for identity theft to someone you’ve never met in person, says the BBB. Want to make sure that photo of your new love interest isn’t stolen from someone else’s profile? Perform a reverse image lookup on tineye.com or images.google.com.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

Published by Debt.com, LLC