It’s an unfortunate fact that thousands of seniors are victims of fraudsters and scammers every year. Besides the threat of identity theft posed by data breaches that seem to happen with alarming regularity, seniors are also victimized in more old-fashioned ways: by telephone scams, people going door to door, and by mail. Seniors are also targeted by unscrupulous individuals who pretend to be their friend or love interest, often with the intent to drain the senior’s bank account.

While people of all ages have fallen victim to scam artists, seniors may be especially vulnerable. Loneliness and dementia may cause serious lapses in judgment. The need to feel useful and a contributing member of society can also overcome a healthy skepticism, especially when it comes to “charities” who pull at the heartstrings to solicit money.

 Some of the most common scams are:

  • “The grandparent scam”: a caller pretends to be a grandchild in trouble, claiming to need money wired immediately because he/she is sick/jailed/stranded.
  • Other phone scams: Callers pretend to be IRS agents and demand money, or state they’re from the gas or electric company and need threaten to turn off service without an immediate payment. Other telemarketing scams include callers stating you’ve won a trip or sweepstakes but need to pay a fee to claim the prize.

  • Door-to-door pitches for cheap home repairs or other services: Often the person asks for money up front and the repair is not finished, is never started, or the work is shoddily done.

  • “The Nigerian Prince” scam, which has been going on for decades, maybe an email, letter, or call from someone posing as a foreigner who offers to transfer a substantial amount of cash to the person’s bank account. The thief either asks for bank account numbers and other sensitive information or requests a small sum of money to be wired as a gesture of good faith.

  • Online suitors, from this country or overseas, who insinuate themselves into the senior’s life and eventually start requesting money. Huge numbers of people have lost their life’s savings by trusting strangers they’ve never met in person.

Whether it’s a pitch by phone, the Internet, or door-to-door, scammers are pros and can be very convincing. Moreover, many victims don’t report the crime out of shame and embarrassment, and almost none get their money back. Here are some reminders for seniors and their families to avoid becoming the next victim:

  • Never reply to letters, emails, texts, or phone calls asking for personal or financial information.
  • Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card or other sensitive information.

  • Be wary of door-to-door solicitors and high-pressure sales tactics.

  • Never allow strangers into your house. Better to be rude than robbed!

  • Report suspicious activity to the authorities.

  • Never wire money to anyone you don’t know, especially online “friends”

Families can help protect seniors against identity theft by ensuring their electronic devices are kept secure with up-to-date virus and firewall protection and reviewing credit reports and monthly credit card and bank statements. A red flag may be a large amount of junk mail, particularly sweepstakes, investments, and “miracle health products,” which may indicate that the older adult is being targeted by telemarketers. One way to limit telemarketing calls and letters is to put the senior’s phone number on the National Do Not Call registry by phoning (888) 382-1222 or visiting, as well as the Direct Marketing Association.

While there’s no foolproof method to stop scammers, being vigilant is key.


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Golden Pond Elder Care Strategies, LLC


Golden Pond serves the Northern Virginia region, including Arlington, Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, and Prince William Counties including Middleburg, Purcellville, Leesburg, Gainsville, Manassas, Sterling, Ashburn, Broadlands, South Riding, Reston, McLean, Vienna, Oakton, Fairfax, Falls Church, Arlington, & the District of Columbia (Washington DC).