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Senior Citizen Scams – How Seniors Are Targeted and How to Prevent It

— April 27, 2020

At the end of the day, there’s always that cold-shoulder sentence that puts a lid on every discussion: “I never purchase from or lend to anyone who calls or visits unannounced. Send me proof in writing.”

The modern age comes with a fair share of deceptions, but at the same time, it also comes with impressive access to the one tool that can help us sniff them out – namely, the right information! If you want to nip this problem in the bud, it’s only reasonable to learn more about how seniors are targeted by scammers, as well as the main reasons why serious, experienced individuals fall for cheap tricks.

Widespread scams: a quick rundown

If you were to ask what’s the most common elderly citizen scam, Medicare swindles would come up first. This usually comes with identity theft as a fake Medicare representative manipulates the elderly to give out personal information.

Another big one on the list of top scams affecting the elderly is the funeral scam. This is a particularly nasty manipulation, where the perpetrator tricks their victim into giving up the identity of recently deceased spouses or relatives, only to claim later that the deceased owes them money. 

You’ve probably heard of lottery scams, mortgage swindles, door-to-door “salesmen,” and a whole range of money-milking methods online, which usually comes down to dangerous investment offers and faux rewards that require personal banking information.

By now, you’ve probably noticed a common thread here – one of the most efficient ways to prevent these scams is to convince your parents or grandparents to keep their personal information to themselves, no matter what.

Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. 

The elderly mindset: why they fall for scams and how they’re targeted

It’s important to reiterate – understanding the elderly mindset is the foundation of preventing them from falling prey to various scams.

Your parents or grandparents are probably lonely, and they yearn for attention. They’ll welcome with open arms anybody who will shower them with it, at least temporarily, and tell them what they want to hear. This is a “crack” that most scammers exploit.

Also, with a retirement fund at their disposal, many elders tend to be generous when it comes to spending. They also tend to be proud, which means that they’d rather stick to a scam story they’ve been sold just to save face. Naturally, at a very basic level, seniors can also be easy prey for scammers because of their reduced cognitive functions. 

That’s why it’s crucial that you have a conversation about character-based manipulation methods with your elders. Keep in mind that the discussion can get heated, as your elderly parent or relative might feel personally attacked. However, it has been shown that such conversations render them more alert afterward.

Older man and younger woman reviewing contract; image by, via Pexels.
Older man and younger woman reviewing contract; image by, via Pexels.

Some extra prevention tips

Avoiding grifters online may sound easy, but you’d be surprised at how skillfully manipulative they can be. For the lack of a better solution, whenever someone offers a service, an investment opportunity, or something similar, tell your elder that they should contact you immediately – before they make any rash decision.

If somebody tries to impersonate a family member, prepare a set of questions for them – something only the closest family members should know.

The senior should never give out credit card numbers or personal information, not even if somebody presents themselves as an authority or a banker. Every legitimate employee of a bank or other service provider will not pressure an elder to make immediate decisions. Plus, they will find it within reason that the elder wants to consult their family member. If they become impatient and insistent, they’re probably a scammer.

When it comes to avoiding telemarketing frauds, one of the nifty tricks you can do is sign up your elder on the National DNCL (Do Not Call List). This should eliminate a significant percentage of fraud. Of course, you’ll need to have their consent and full awareness if you’re going to take this step. 

Door-to-door salespeople can be quite annoying, but they might also be dangerous and predatory. If they don’t have a legitimate product with them, a scam is almost a guarantee. Such frauds will usually ask for cash upfront with the promise of delivering goods later. Elders should never allow any door-to-door salesmen to enter their homes, under any circumstances.

There’s also the matter of false charities, which usually collect personal information over the phone. Remember that scammers can also misrepresent a legitimate charity, so any such calls should be refuted. There are many reliable, public channels of donation.

And, at the end of the day, there’s always that cold-shoulder sentence that puts a lid on every discussion: “I never purchase from or lend to anyone who calls or visits unannounced. Send me proof in writing.”


Scammers will always prey on the most gullible members of our society. In the case of the elderly, they count on their empathy, willingness to listen, and loneliness. Because of this, one of the most efficient fraud prevention methods is to have a tight-knit relationship with your elderly family members. Take it upon yourself to keep them socialized and up-to-date with the latest developments. It will help make them more alert and sharp-minded. 

However, if by any chance they become victims of a scam, the last thing you should do is blame them for it. It’s counter-productive, it can damage your relationship, and it will only make them feel terrible. It’s the last thing you need, considering that more scammers might attempt to swindle them.

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