Top 10 Senior Scams to Avoid

Senior Scams: Preying on the Nation’s Vulnerable

Senior scams being perpetrated against some the country’s seniors and the elderly has been on the rise over the past few years. Seniors are especially vulnerable to fraud due to health issues or the natural effects of aging.
A USA Today report states that a hotline set-up by the Senate Aging Committee received twice as many calls for senior scams involving claimed tax debts in 2016 than any other complaint. The “tax debt” senior scam also topped the Committee’s annual report comprising reported financial scams for the year.
As a result, the Senate Aging Committee published a comprehensive report addressing top senior scams along with tips and resources on how to prevent becoming a victim of senior fraud.

Here is a list of the top 10 senior scams to avoid:

  • IRS Impersonation Scams
    • Scammers target victims claiming to be an IRS agent, demanding payment for back-taxes and associated penalties.
    • Scammers spoof their identity to appear as government entities through caller-ID.
  • Sweepstakes Scams
    • Victims are lead to believe that they have won a sweepstakes or are in the running for a prize
    • Scammers dupe victims into paying fake fees to receive the prize or increase chances of winning
    • Lead lists of potential victims are bought and sold among fraudsters
  • Robocalling Scams
    • Victims receive automated messages from scammers claiming to be government or law enforcement
    • Scammers can reach thousands of victims per day through automated dialing and recorded messages
  • Computer Scams
    • Scammers impersonate legitimate tech and cyber-security companies
    • Victims are told that a virus has been removed from their computer and that a payment for services is owned
  • Elder Financial Abuse
    • Senior scams involving illegal or improper use of an elder’s finances
    • Typically perpetrated by one close to the victim
  • Grandparent Scams
    • Senior scams preying specifically on grandparents
    • Scammers either pretend to be a grandchild asking for money or an agency, such as a hospital calling on the grandchild’s behalf
  • Romance Cons
    • Fraudsters target singles, engaging in false relationships while swindling them out of money and goods
    • Widow/er and single seniors especially vulnerable due to loneliness
  • Government Grant Scams
    • Scams that claim free grant money
    • Victims must pay processing fee and other administrative costs to receive the grant
  • Counterfeit Check Scams
    • Victims are sent a counterfeit check in return for wiring money elsewhere
    • Several forms of this scam include:
      • Check Over-payment/Internet sale scams – Scammers target ad posters and e-sellers and agree to purchase sale items. They send checks over-paying for the item requesting victims to deposit funds and wire back the difference
      • Secret Shopper Scams – Victims are told they have been selected as a secret shopper to audit a money-wiring service. They are sent a check and told to deposit it, after depositing they wire the portion required and keep the rest as payment.
  • Identity Theft
    • Fraudsters impersonate victims, draining personal finances or defrauding the government for healthcare and social security benefits.


This list only provides a brief overview of these top senior scams. Check out these links to find out more about ways to prevent senior scams:

  • To view the full Senate Aging Committee report on these top 10 senior scams click here
  • For the full USA Today report, click here
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