Senior Resources

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Common scams used to defraud Older Adults

Medicare & Health Insurance Scams

In these types of scams, perpetrators may pose as a Medicare representative to get older people to give them their personal information, or they will provide bogus services for older adults at makeshift mobile clinics, then use the personal information they provide to bill Medicare and pocket the money.

IRS Impersonation Scams

In this scam, IRS impersonators often accuse victims of owing back taxes that must be paid immediately. After an initial “payment” is made, con artists often convince victims to make additional payments to prevent arrest or other adverse actions.

The IRS Will Never

  • Call a taxpayer to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without mailing a bill to the taxpayer.
  • Demand that a taxpayer pay taxes without allowing him or her to question or appeal the amount claimed to be owed.
  • Ask for a credit or debit card number over the phone.
  • Threaten to send local police or other law enforcement to have a taxpayer arrested.
  • Require a taxpayer to use a specific payment method for taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.

Grandparent Scams

Scammers will place a call to an older person, and when the mark picks up, they will say something along the lines of: “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” When the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the grandchild’s name the scammer most sounds like the scammer has established a fake identity without having done any background research. The fake grandchild will usually ask for money to solve some unexpected financial problem (overdue rent, payment for car repairs, etc.), to be paid via Western Union or MoneyGram, which don’t always require identification to collect.

Phone Scams & Robocalling

Perhaps the most common scheme is when scammers use fake telemarketing calls to prey on older people. With no face-to-face interaction and no paper trail, these scams are tough to trace. Once a successful deal has been made, the buyer’s name is then shared with similar schemers looking for easy targets, sometimes defrauding the same person repeatedly.

Robocalling is using equipment to mechanically, as opposed to manually, dial phone numbers in sequence.

Do Not Accept Robocalls – Unsolicited robocalls are illegal! Hang up immediately if you receive a pre-recorded sales pitch by phone and report the call to the FTC. Never attempt to opt-out of the call and never give the automated dialer time to forward the call to a live person. Robocall products are often a sham, and spending a lot of time listening could lead to more bogus calls later.

“Can you hear me?”

The scammer will ask, “Are you there?” or “Can you hear me?” to prompt the recipient to say “yes.” The scammers record the consumer’s voice, and thus obtain a voice signature, and use the recording to authorize unwanted charges on items like utility bills, phone bills, or even stolen credit cards.

You can reduce the number of unwanted sales calls you get by signing up for the National Do Not Call Registry. It’s free! Visit to register your number.

Charity Scams

One common scam involves someone impersonating a charity foundation to collect donations. This fraudulent appeal is especially common following a natural disaster.

Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams

A scammer may claim to be associated with a prize or lottery commission. They may tell the victim that they won the lottery or a special prize and that they need to send money to cover the taxes on their winnings.

Email Scams

An email phishing scam can happen when a senior receives an email appearing to be from a legitimate entity such as the IRS requesting them to update or verify their personal information. When the senior reveals their social security number, credit card information, or other sensitive information, the scammer may use it for identity theft.

Forward unwanted or deceptive messages to the Federal Trade Commission at Be sure to include the complete spam email.

Banking Scams

Banking scams involve attempts to access your bank account. Some popular banking scams include:

  • Overpayment scams: A scam artist sends you a counterfeit check. They tell you to deposit it in your bank account and wire part of the money back to them. Since the check was fake, you’ll have to pay your bank the amount of the check, plus you’ll lose any money you wired.
  • Unsolicited check fraud: A scammer sends you a check for no reason. If you cash it, you may be authorizing the purchase of items or signing up for a loan you didn’t ask for.
  • Automatic withdrawals: A company sets up an automatic debit from your bank account as part of a free trial or to collect lottery winnings.
  • Phishing: You receive an email message that asks you to verify your bank account or debit card number.

Report counterfeit checks to the Federal Trade Commission, either online or by phone at 1-877-382-4357.

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