Elder Scams and Fraud

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Elder Scams and Fraud Overview:

Older adults are targeted every day by various means:  the internet, e-mail, texts, social media, other messaging sites, regular mail, in person, and by telephone. Nearly every scam is designed to trick an older adult into sending money or providing their personal information. With the elderly population growing and seniors racking up more than $3 billion in losses annually, elder scams and fraud are a growing problem.  

What are Elder Scams?

The act of targeting older adults to deceive with promises of goods, services, or financial benefits that do not exist, were never intended to be provided or were misrepresented. The types of scams are widespread and change all the time to take advantage of new technology, current events, and more. 

Here are the top scams targeting seniors:

1. COVID-19 vaccine scams
2. Government impostor scams
3. Lottery and Sweepstakes 
5. Peer-to-peer (P2P) payment/lending scams
6. Medicare/health insurance scams
7. The Grandparent scams
8. Debt collection/Account takeover scam calls/texts
9. Robocalls/phone scams
10. Computer tech support scams 

Who is at risk?

All older adults may be victims of scams and fraud regardless of whether they are rich or poor, or undereducated or highly educated. Seniors of all races, cultures, and creeds are victimized.  Scammers are increasingly targeting older adults because they are perceived to be more likely to have a nest egg and less familiar with technology. 

What are the signs?

The warning signs of scams and fraud can come in many different ways; however, the most common red flags to spot a potential scammer are when you receive a phone call from a contact you don’t know out of the blue, a person you’ve never met in person asks for money, and a person asks you to pay for something or to give him/her money through unusual payment methods (e.g., gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrencies). 

Here are additional signs that indicate you might be dealing with a scammer. They include contact from someone:

  • Calling or emailing you, claiming to be from the government and asking you to pay money.
  • Asking you to pay money or taxes upfront to receive a prize or a gift.
  • Asking for access to your money-such as your ATM cards, bank accounts, credit cards, or investment accounts.
  • Pressuring you to "act now" or else the deal will go away OR someone who seems to be trying hard to give you a "great deal" without time to answer your questions.  ​

How to Report Suspected Elder Scams and Fraud:​

Maryland law requires health practitioners, police officers, and human service workers to report suspected abuse of vulnerable adults, including financial exploitation, to the local department of social services. A vulnerable adult is anyone over 18 years of age who lacks the physical or mental capacity to provide for their daily needs. Social workers, employees of licensed health care facilities, and employees of financial institutions have additional, and in some cases mandatory, reporting requirements as well.  

Any concerned person who has reason to believe that a vulnerable adult has been subjected to a scam or fraud may report it, and often the report can be anonymous. If you suspect that an older adult is being, or is about to be a victim of a scam or fraud, there are a number of resourceful contacts to call for help, including, but not limited to the following:

If the older adult in question lost money or other possessions in a scam, report it to your local police department​ too.

When reporting a scam—regardless of dollar amount—include as many of the following details as possible:

  1. Names of the scammer and/or company
  2. Dates of contact
  3. Methods of communication​
  4. Phone numbers, email addresses, mailing addresses, and websites used by the perpetrator
  5. Methods of payment
  6. Where you sent funds, including wire transfers and prepaid cards (provide financial institution names, account names, and account numbers)
  7. Descriptions of your interactions with the scammer and the instructions you were given

What can you do to help keep older adults safe from Elder Scams and Fraud:

When it comes to scams and fraud the two biggest deterrents are for older adults to stay up to date with their banking information so they can notice and report fraudulent charges, and they are not afraid to say no to solicitors or telemarketers. 

Use these tips below to protect against potential scams and fraud​:

  • Recognize scam attempts and end all communication with the perpetrator.
  • Search online for the contact information (name, email, phone number, addresses) and the proposed offer. Other people have likely posted information online about individuals and businesses trying to run scams.
  • Take precautions to protect your identity. If a criminal gains access to your device or account. Immediately contact your financial institutions to place protections on your accounts, and monitor your accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.
  • Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks, or wire information to unverified people or businesses.
  • Make sure all computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections are up to date. Use reputable anti-virus software and firewalls.
  • Disconnect from the internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Pop-ups are regularly used by perpetrators to spread malicious software. Enable pop-up blockers to avoid accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
  • Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don't know, and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.

Additional Resources:

Contact Person: Leonard Croft, Elder Rights Program Manager, 410-767-4665, leonard.croft@maryland.gov 

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