Financial Scams that Target Seniors

Unfortunately, con artists are more likely to target those of us who are most vulnerable, leaving the elderly wide open to scams and fraud. Protect yourself, or those you love, by being aware of the types of scams likely to be enacted.

There are many ways that the elderly look promising to con artists as victims. Many older people have a hefty savings account, excellent credit, or own their own home–assets a con artist would love to get their hands on. The elderly tend to be polite and trusting; they are less likely to hang up on an unscrupulous telemarketer or shut the door to a stranger offering assistance. Many older people, especially widows and widowers, are lonely, and therefore more likely to embrace someone new in their life as a potential friend. If a crime is committed, an older person tends to make an unreliable witness, remembering facts and encounters incorrectly, and not wanting to admit they were duped because they feel it might reflect poorly on their ability to remain independent.

As many cons exist as do con artists, but there are several that occur most often. Here are some examples:

  1. “Sweetheart Scams” – When an individual charms an older person, convincing them to let them into their life for love or companionship. As the individual gains the older person’s trust, they begin to take control of their assets, such as pushing an older person to sign a will that makes the individual their inheritor, or gaining possession of the deed to the house or other property. If kindness does not work, they may use threats or emotional abuse to convince their victim to comply. Once they have gained control, the individual usually disappears with the assets in tow.
  2. Selling fake or overpriced items – Scammers will sometimes attempt to sell goods and services to the elderly, convincing them that they are critical to their well-being. They will then charge the victim extraordinary prices, usually disguised in confusing payment plans or with excessive interest tacked on. Many times, the victim will never receive the goods or services at all, or receive something unlike what they were told to expect.
  3. Telemarketing or mail fraud – Connected to the con listed above, these con artists will use credit card fraud, identity theft, or lottery scams to part the elderly with their savings and other assets, via phone or mail. With the use of official looking documents, mail fraud can be exceptionally difficult for the elderly to catch onto, and thanks to the anonymity of the phone, many scammers can keep their identity hidden from their victim.
  4. Faking an emergency – In this scam, the con artist calls the elderly person, claiming to be a doctor or legal authority. They tell the intended victim that a family member or friend has been in an accident or are under arrest, and that they must wire money to a specific location in order to help pay medical or legal bills.
  5. Bogus home repair – Fake handymen will arrive at an older person’s home, and claim to have noticed a problem on the property that needs fixing, whether real or imagined. Under the guise of a helpful stranger, they convince the victim to pay them up front, and then proceed to fix nothing, or do substandard work. Sometimes, they’ll claim to have found more damage than previously noticed, and ask for more money.

All of these scams could last for days, weeks, or even months before they come to light. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Get the legal help you need in cases of elderly fraud and financial abuse by going to