Financial Scams Targeting Seniors

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on July 05, 2023

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Overview of Financial Scams Targeting Seniors

Financial scams targeting seniors are schemes that specifically target elderly individuals with the goal of stealing their money or personal information.

These scams can take many forms, including phishing emails, fake charity solicitations, and fraudulent investment opportunities.

Seniors and their loved ones need to be aware of these scams and take steps to protect themselves.

Reasons Seniors Are Targeted by Financial Scammers

Generational Differences in Financial Literacy

Many seniors may need to be more well-versed in modern financial practices or digital technologies, making them susceptible to scams that involve online transactions, digital currencies, or internet-based communication.

Cognitive Decline and Vulnerability

As individuals age, they may experience cognitive decline or health issues, which can lead to impaired judgment and increased vulnerability to scams.

Accumulated Wealth and Assets

Seniors often have more significant savings and assets due to a lifetime of earning, saving, and investing, making them attractive targets for scammers.

Trusting and Polite Nature

Many seniors come from a generation that values trust, politeness, and social decorum. Scammers may exploit these traits to manipulate seniors into providing sensitive information or making unwise financial decisions.

Types of Financial Scams Targeting Seniors

Telemarketing Scams

Charity Scams

Scammers pose as representatives of legitimate charities or create fake charities to solicit donations from seniors over the phone.

Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams

Seniors are informed that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes but must pay taxes or fees to claim their prize.

Tech Support Scams

Scammers pose as tech support personnel, claiming that the senior's computer has a virus or needs an update, and request payment for their services.

Investment Scams

Ponzi Schemes

Scammers promise high returns on investments by using money from new investors to pay returns to earlier investors, creating the illusion of a profitable business.

Promissory Note Fraud

Scammers sell fake or unregistered promissory notes, which are short-term debt instruments, to seniors by promising high returns with minimal risk.

Precious Metal and Commodity Scams

Scammers convince seniors to invest in precious metals, rare coins, or other commodities with false claims of significant appreciation and low risk.

Healthcare Scams

Fake Prescription Drugs

Scammers sell counterfeit prescription drugs to seniors, which may be ineffective or dangerous to their health.

Health Insurance Scams

Scammers pose as insurance agents, offering seniors fraudulent or nonexistent health insurance policies.

Medical Equipment Scams

Scammers sell unnecessary or counterfeit medical equipment to seniors, often billing Medicare for fraudulent transactions.

Social Security and Medicare Scams

Scammers impersonate government officials, claiming that the senior's benefits are in jeopardy and requiring immediate action or payment.

Romance Scams

Scammers pose as romantic interests, often online, and manipulate seniors into providing financial support or gifts.

Grandparent Scams

Scammers pose as a grandchild or other family member in distress, requesting money for an emergency or urgent need.

IRS and Tax Scams

Scammers pose as Internal Revenue Services (IRS) agents, claiming that the senior owes back taxes and must make an immediate payment to avoid penalties.

Identity Theft

Scammers steal seniors' personal information, such as Social Security numbers or financial account information, to commit fraud or other crimes.

Types of Financial Scams Targeting Seniors

How to Prevent Financial Scams Targeting Seniors

Educating Seniors on Financial Scams

Community Seminars and Workshops

Organize educational events in the community to inform seniors about common financial scams and how to avoid them.

Online Resources

Direct seniors to reliable online resources that provide information on financial scams and prevention strategies, such as government websites and consumer protection organizations.

Encouraging Open Communication With Family and Friends

Encourage seniors to discuss their financial decisions and any suspicious encounters with trusted family members or friends.

Establishing Financial Safeguards

Monitoring Financial Accounts

Regularly review seniors' financial accounts for unauthorized transactions or other signs of fraudulent activity.

Setting up Alerts for Suspicious Activity

Enroll seniors in account alerts for large transactions or other suspicious activity to provide early detection of potential scams.

Staying Informed About Current Scams

Keep up to date with the latest scams targeting seniors by following news reports, government alerts, and consumer protection resources.

Protecting Personal Information

Shredding Documents

Ensure seniors shred sensitive documents, such as bank statements or credit card offers, before discarding them.

Using Strong Passwords

Help seniors create strong, unique passwords for online accounts and encourage the use of password managers for added security.

Securing Mail and Online Accounts

Encourage seniors to secure their mail by using a locked mailbox and implementing two-factor authentication for online accounts.

Utilizing Call-Blocking Services

Enroll seniors in call-blocking services to reduce the number of telemarketing and scam calls they receive.

How to Prevent Financial Scams Targeting Seniors

Steps to Take If a Senior Falls Victim to a Scam

Reporting the Scam

Local Law Enforcement

Report the scam to local law enforcement to help them track and potentially apprehend the scammers.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which collects information on scams and provides resources for victims.

State Attorney General's Office

Contact the state attorney general's office to report the scam and inquire about any available resources for victims.

Contacting Financial Institutions

Closing Compromised Accounts

Close any compromised financial accounts and open new ones to prevent further unauthorized transactions.

Disputing Fraudulent Charges

Work with financial institutions to dispute fraudulent charges and recover lost funds, if possible.

Monitoring Credit Reports

Encourage seniors to monitor their credit reports for signs of identity theft or other fraudulent activity.

Seeking Support From Family and Community Resources

Rely on family members and community resources, such as support groups or counseling services, to help seniors recover emotionally and financially from the scam.

Steps to Take If a Senior Falls Victim to a Scam


Financial scams targeting seniors are schemes that specifically target elderly individuals with the goal of stealing their money or personal information. Seniors and their loved ones need to be aware of these scams and take steps to protect themselves.

Seniors are targeted for various reasons, including generational differences in financial literacy, cognitive decline and vulnerability, accumulated wealth and assets, and a trusting and polite nature.

These scams can take many forms, including telemarketing scams, charity scams, lottery and sweepstakes scams, and identity theft.

Preventive measures include educating seniors on financial scams, encouraging open communication with family and friends, establishing financial safeguards, staying informed about current scams, protecting personal information, and utilizing call-blocking services.

If a senior falls victim to a scam, steps to take include reporting the scam, contacting financial institutions, monitoring credit reports, and seeking support from family and community resources.

It is essential to be vigilant and take the necessary steps to protect seniors from financial scams.

Financial Scams Targeting Seniors FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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