Protect Yourself from Senior Scams

  • March 7, 2019
Protect Yourself from Senior Scams

We live in an incredible age. Technology, like the internet and mobile telephones, has created amazing opportunities for us stay informed about current events, to correspond with family members and even to view the latest pictures of our grandchildren while they’re away at summer camp. The internet is an exciting place. But would it surprise you to learn that senior citizens are among the fastest-growing groups of internet users in the United States?

Research conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 67 percent of adults over the age of 65 spend time online. That’s an astonishing increase compared to the 14 percent of seniors who reported using the internet in 2000. As seniors today are adopting technology in greater numbers, many remain highly vulnerable to deception—which is why online senior safety education should be a top priority. 

Elder Fraud Can Happen To Anyone

Con-artists prey on seniors, who aren’t always familiar with the latest tricks they employ to approach their victims. Some of these elder fraud scams have been identified, such as telemarketing ploys, internet fraud, investment schemes, and lottery fraud. But scammers continue to find new ways to prey on seniors and others who are vulnerable online.

In fact, perhaps one of the most well-publicized scams was back in 2016 during the Presidential election. John Podesta, the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton, fell prey to a common online scam called phishing. He was sent an email that looked like it was from Gmail asking for his password, but it was really a link to a third-party site that was hoping he would click on it in order to steal his data. If he had looked closely at who was sending the email, he would have noticed that the email address used was bogus. If it had been real, the email would have come from someone at google.com, but instead, it was sent from someone at googlemail.com. It’s a small detail to notice, which is why John Podesta fell for it.

The good news is that you don’t have to stop using your phone or computer to protect yourself against elder fraud. You simply need to know what to look out for.

Online Safety For Seniors

Education and awareness is the first step in maintaining safety, online, and in-person. Here are a few tips to help protect yourself from scammers:

Trust Your Suspicion

If something seems fishy, it probably is. Don’t let an aggressive scammer talk you out of your first instinct. With telemarketing scams, in particular, the caller may pose as a credit card company representative, a bank employee or even your own grandchild. If you don’t recognize the voice of the person on the other end of the line or if you don’t have an account with the company that he or she claims to represent, don’t hesitate to voice your suspicion. If the person on the other end is who he or she claims to be, they should be able to prove it to you. If they can’t, just hang up as it is probably an elder fraud scheme.

Don’t Be Pressured

One tactic that a lot of scammers will use is to pressure you with a sense of urgency. For instance, an article in Keloland tells of an 86-year old man who was harassed by a caller claiming to be his grandson. In this case, the scammer attempted to convince the would-be victim to wire him bail money for release from an international jail. The perpetrator attempted to convince the well-meaning senior that his situation was urgent and his need for money was immediate. Fortunately, the perpetrator, in this case, failed to make a convincing case. But other seniors have been less fortunate and fallen for an elder fraud plot. Don’t let an aggressive email or phone call pressure you into making a costly mistake.

Ask Questions

The last thing a scammer wants to do is answer a lot of questions. Any time you receive a phone call or an email from an unfamiliar source, you have a right and a responsibility to learn more. If the individual claims to be a customer service representative, ask for more information about the company. Ask for the caller’s Customer Service ID number. Ask to speak with a supervisor. Ask if there’s a number that you can use to reach the caller after you’ve done a little research. Ask as many questions as you possibly can. Ultimately, the more questions you ask, the more uncomfortable the scammer will become. In the end, the way that the individual answers these questions will either remove your suspicions or help you to uncover the caller’s true intentions.

Talk to Somebody You Trust

If you receive a suspicious email or phone call, seek out a trusted family member, friend or even a bank employee for advice. Tell somebody else about the contents of the suspicious correspondence and get a second opinion. Before you respond, and especially before you open up your checkbook, consult somebody close to you. Sometimes, the warning signs are easier to spot when you have help.

Keep Private Information Private

Never, ever give away critical personal information to a random caller or email correspondent. It’s critical to senior safety to keep that information private. Only scammers will contact you and ask for your bank account number, your social security number or a credit or debit card number. Your bank or credit card company will never contact you and ask for this information over the phone or by email. If somebody that you don’t know asks for this critical information, simply refuse and cease contact.  

Senior Safety Online And At Home

A medical alert device can protect you from more than just medical emergencies. Here at Medical Guardian, we’ve had clients call into our monitoring center for a variety of reasons—a home invasion, a fire, or even if you’re experiencing harassment from a senior scammer. When it comes to senior safety, a medical alert system is an all-purpose way to remain protected offline, or online.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hilary Young is a health and wellness expert that specializes in both senior life and caregiving. She'd love to hear more about your thoughts on aging, healthy living, and caregiving, and you can find her on Twitter at @hyoungcreative to start the conversation.


KEYWORDS: senior safety, elder fraud, online safety, online scams, scame prevention, senior scams