Senior Scams and How to Avoid Them

It's all over the news. Senior scams are scary. Since the 1990s, seniors have grown increasingly likely to be targets of scam artists. According to the FBI, seniors are targeted by scammers and con artists due to the belief of the senior “nest egg,” a large stash of money saved away since retirement. Con artists hope that seniors don't pay as much attention to their finances as younger generations. It can take months for seniors to catch a disparity in their funds. When that happens, many seniors don't know who to call or are ashamed to admit they've been scammed. Unfortunately, this only increases scammers' desires to continue to target the aging-in-place demographic.

At Alert1, we believe that every senior should be equipped with knowledge about scams. We believe that seniors do not have to sit in silence and shame after a scam. Knowing what kind of scams to look out for and where to go to report them can help empower you to say no to scammers.

Popular Senior Scams

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There are many types of scams perpetrated in the world. Law enforcement agencies have noticed a trend in the scams targeting senior citizens. Here, we created a list of the most common scams that are perpetrated against seniors—and what to do if you suspect you're being scammed.

IRS Tax Return Scam

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It doesn't matter the time of year. Your phone always seems to be ringing with an automated message from the IRS saying you still owe the government money. Since tax season happened a while ago, you can't quite remember if you sent the check in—something these scammers are relying on.

Demands will usually include a check being written to include your tax amount and extra “late fees.” If you are on the receiving end of calls like this, hang up the phone! The IRS will never call you on the phone about your tax return.

I've Won a Prize Scam

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In your mailbox one day, there's an envelope saying congratulations, you've won a cruise for two to Mexico. You're so excited, as you've never won anything like this before. If it all seems too good to be true, it probably is. Usually such prize letters will include a request for your bank account information, so the prize can be deposited directly into your account. The scammers are waiting to drain your accounts within 24 hours of sending them all the requested information.

When you receive mail like this, don't send in any personal information. Instead, alert local law enforcement agencies. They may be able to use the information in the letter to help track down the scammers.

Health Insurance and Medicare Scam

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We all know that going to see the doctor is important as you age—and scammers know this too. Con artists will go to great lengths to get medical and personal information. Some even set up a fake clinic to steal personal medical information and bill your health insurance for fake services never offered. Any money the insurance company sends out, will go straight into their pocket.

Scammers may set up a fake pharmacy, or offer to fill your prescription medications for less—while selling fake or even potentially toxic substances to you. Be wary if you hear about a free health clinic that's popped up in the neighborhood, or an offer of discount prescription medications. Always check with your health insurance for a list of doctors and pharmacies near you.

Phone Calls and Telemarketer Scam

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You're watching TV one night and see an advertisement for the perfect birthday present for your son. You pick up the phone, and have placed an order within five minutes. You didn't even have to leave the house. While ordering over the phone is fast and convenient, think twice about placing an order with a telemarketer.

Con artists create an elaborate offer to sell and then comb through call data banks for phone numbers to call. It might sound like a great offer on a new table set, but don't give your bank information to a stranger calling over the phone. Instead, ask for more information. If they pressure you into providing payment information right away, hang up the phone.

What to Do After a Scam

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If you or someone you know has been a victim to a scam, contact law enforcement right away. Elder Care provides links to resources including legal assistance. Visit them at or call 1-800-677-1116. Elder Care also provides access to information and resources in partnership with the FBI.

There is nothing wrong in taking a stand. So breathe out any lingering feelings of shame, and move forward into making sure that these scammers never target someone else again.