Key Takeaways:

  • Older adults can become targets of criminals, and there are many ways that they do this.
  • If you think something might be a scam or fraud, stop and assess your situation before taking action.
  • These are 5 of the most common scams to be aware of.

eniors are often targeted by scammers. It's a sad fact, but it's true. In the United States, adults over the age of 65 are more likely than any other demographic to be victimized by fraudsters.

According to one study from AARP, nearly half (45 percent) of seniors who responded said that they had been victims of financial scams within the past year alone!

And these frauds aren't just targeting older adults' finances: They're also preying on their emotions and vulnerabilities too. Here's how 5 common scams aimed at older Americans work—and what you should do if someone contacts you about them.

1. Fake charities

Be wary of phone solicitors. If someone calls you and says they're from a charity, ask how they got your number. If they won't say, hang up.

Don't give to charities you don't know or whose names sound like other legitimate ones. For example, "Cancer Society" is much more likely to be a scam than the American Cancer Society because it sounds so close to the real thing but isn't exactly what you think it is.

Don't give money over the phone and keep records of all donations made online or through mail campaigns for three years after making them (or longer if required by law). This helps protect against fraudulent charges on credit cards and ensures that any tax deductions are valid—if necessary—when filing taxes at year's end.

Don't give out money over the phone.

2. Medical alert scams

Medical alert scams are similar to the grandparent scam, where a con artist pretends to be a family member in need of financial assistance. In this case, they pose as a relative who has been hurt and needs money immediately for medical costs. These scammers use technology and other resources to build trust with their victims, who may not have time or energy to verify their stories before sending money. If you receive such a call from someone claiming to be an emergency contact for an ill or injured person, hang up and check in with the individual directly.

If you think you've been scammed: Report it! You can report fraudulent activity online at Your report will help law enforcement officials take action against fraudsters who use phone calls like this one as part of their scheme.

Learn more about the Grandparent Scam.

3. Mystery shopper schemes

Mystery shopper scams involve offering money to individuals for completing tasks, like taking a survey or shopping at certain stores. They may also be referred to as mystery shopping programs. These fraudulent offers can be found in the mail, on social media and even on your phone.

How does it work?

  • The scammer sends out fake checks or money orders and asks you to deposit them into your bank account then send back part of the funds so they can confirm its legitimacy.
  • Once you do that, they’ll ask you to wire them some of the money back via Western Union or MoneyGram because they need it urgently and don’t trust banks anymore!
  • You should never wire any money without verifying with your bank first that there really is a check attached to their name in existence.

What are signs of a mystery shopper scam?

  • The letter comes from an unfamiliar person who claims he/she works for an organization called “Mystery Shopping Jobs Incorporated” (or something similar).
  • The letter says you were selected as one of two potential candidates for this job opportunity because of your background experience in restaurant management; however, it doesn't specify what kind of restaurant experience qualifies someone for this position (restaurant wait staff experience doesn't count). The writing is usually very poor English grammar "I am happy if I get selected by you".
  • There's often a request made right away asking if interested applicants could call back within 24 hours upon receiving their offer letter - but this means waiting too long before confirming whether or not someone has been scammed!

4. International lottery scams

International lottery scams are among the most widespread and profitable scams targeting older adults. Victims of this scam believe they have won a lottery, but in order to collect their winnings they are told they must pay taxes or fees—not an uncommon request by itself, except that it’s usually a fake requirement used by scammers as an excuse to collect money from you without actually giving you anything in return. If you do send money as instructed, you will never receive any prize or reimbursement for your investment.

This is why it’s important to keep in mind: if someone asks for payment before providing something of value (like winning the lottery), that person is probably trying to scam you out of money with no intention of following through on his promise at all!

Be careful with your money.

5. Money transfer schemes

Money transfer schemes, also known as wire fraud, are a popular scam targeting older adults. They can be very hard to spot when they appear in your inbox or on your phone because they're designed to look like a legitimate transaction.

Money transfer scams are often run by organized crime groups who prey on victims and steal their money. When you receive one of these emails or texts, there's no guarantee that it's from a trusted source or that the sender has your best interests at heart—so it's best to keep an eye out for these characteristics:

  • Spelling mistakes
  • Unprofessional language (too formal)
  • Poor grammar

In addition to the five scams highlighted above, there are a number of other financial scams that target older adults. These scams are often run by criminals who want to steal your money or personal information. You should be especially careful with your financial information, because it can be used to commit identity theft and other forms of fraud.

As we’ve seen, there are many ways that criminals can take advantage of you as an older adult. That’s why it’s important to be aware of these scams and not fall victim to them. If you think something might be a scam or fraud, stop and assess your situation before taking action—and if it does turn out to be a scam, report it!

Learn more about common scams and frauds targeted at older adults:

Nov 14, 2022
Financial Planning