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Swindling Seniors: The Most Common Scams Targeting Older Adults

The Nigerian prince hoax is one of the most well-known scams in the U.S. The con runs like this: A royal family member in a faraway country asks the mark, through a letter or email, to transfer millions of dollars out of their country by depositing it for safekeeping in the victim’s bank account. The royal may even ask for money to pay a fee or taxes for the transfer. Either way the victim has money stolen from them. This hoax may seem pretty obvious or you may think highly of others – people are intelligent enough to see through the deceit. However, scammers are still raking in the dough.

According to the True Link Report on Elder Financial Abuse, seniors lose nearly 13 billion dollars to fraud each year. Scammers aren’t the only ones targeting older adults. The report also says seniors are duped out of 17 billion dollars each year from high-pressure tactics or misleading language from legitimate businesses and charities, and another 6.7 billion dollars is lost to what’s known as “trust abuse” - that’s when a family or friends take advantage of a relationship to get money from a senior.

What Types of Scams Are There?

The Nigerian prince emails are just one type of scam. The National Council of Aging says these are some other common types of fraud:

  • The Placebo Effect: Seniors purchase a discounted medication through the Internet and discover the medication is not what they ordered or it is a harmful drug.
  • The Faux Grandchild: Seniors receive a frantic phone call from a “grandchild,” who is needs money for bail, car repairs, overdue rent, etc. Seniors wire money to them via Western Union or MoneyGram and promise not to tell the “grandchild’s parents.” Usually, the scammer asks, “Hi Grandma/Grandpa, do you know who this is?” When the victim replies with the name of a grandchild, the caller assumes that identity.
  • The No Money Lottery/Sweepstakes: Seniors receive a letter or phone call that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes, but they must mail in a check to “unlock” their prize. The fake lottery/sweepstakes may send a check to be deposited. While seniors see the money is in their account then scammers ask for payment for “fees” or “taxes” on the prize money. While the con artists collect the money, the check bounces.
  • The Bad Samaritan Charity: Frauds posing as volunteers call seniors and ask for monetary donations or ask them to buy an item, while the cost goes directly to a “charity” but more likely the thieves’ pockets.

There are many more types of scams, and you can find more information here. If any of these sound familiar to you or your loved one, please seek help. Call your bank if money was taken from your account, notify the local police and file a complaint with the National Consumers League’s fraud program.

Older adults can be vulnerable to scams and scoundrels. ComForCare Home Care offers in-home care with caregivers you can trust. We provide senior care so elderly adults can live with dignity and independence. Count on us for help when you need it.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published Jan. 15, 2016. It has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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