Older Adult Scams
What is a scam that targets older adults?
Many different scams target older adults specifically. Why?
For one thing, there are more than 54 million people who are 65 or older in the United States alone, and for another, this population tends to have more money in the bank than younger targets. Fraudsters want that wealth for themselves!
No matter the approach, the goal of scams targeting older adults is always the same: to get your personal information and eventually your money.
Examples of scams targeting older adults
Here are a handful of common scams that target older adults. The more familiar you are with these tactics, the easier it will be for you to recognize and avoid fraud.
To prey on the kindness of a family member, criminals call an older adult and pose as a relative, usually a child or grandchild. The fake relative claims to be in immediate financial need, possibly even asking for money to post bail.
A con artist poses as an interested romantic partner on social media or dating websites. The person on the other side of the screen could be completely different — and living in a completely different country. While scammers target people of all ages with this one, the romance scam often targets elderly victims’ desire to find companionship in their later years.
For this scam, criminals pose as technology support representatives and offer to fix computer problems you probably don’t even have. This may even include posing as a cybersecurity company you’re familiar with. Not only does their “help” gain them remote access to your devices and sensitive information, it also lets them bill you for services never needed.
When posing as a government employee — whether an FBI agent or a member of a different agency altogether — these scammers seem to have the whole weight of the U.S. government behind them. Using that intimidation, they threaten to arrest or prosecute victims unless they agree to provide funds or other payments.
How to handle scams targeting older adults
- Take a minute — Fraudsters want you so frazzled that you don’t have time to question their demands. Resist the impulse to act quickly. You can always offer to call someone back, which gives you time to sort out what you’re hearing and react appropriately.
- Talk to someone you trust - An honest conversation with a family member or your banker may save you money and a big hassle in helping you to assess a questionable situation.
- Just hang up — Intimidation tactics and heart-wrenching pleas are designed to keep you on the line. But if you suspect you’re talking to a scammer, cut off communication immediately. Go ahead and end the call.
- Question the contact — All unsolicited phone calls, letters, email and in-person visits should be questioned. Is the person really who they say they are? To be safe, don’t give any money or share personally identifiable information, including account numbers.
- Be safe online — Use reputable antivirus software and be careful what you choose to download. Never open an email attachment or click a link in an email from someone you don't know — or has been forwarded to you from a stranger.
If you suspect you have been targeted by a scam targeting older adults and have mistakenly provided your personal and/or account information to the scammer, please contact your local branch or our Customer Care Center at (800) 994-2500 (8 am-5 pm, Monday through Friday) for assistance as soon as possible.