Five Scams Most Likely to Target Elderly Retirees

elder abuse scams

Elderly retired life is supposed to be the, “Golden Years.”

However, for many elderly people, old age means they become the target of attention from sophisticated, gold-digging scam artists.

Financial elder abuse occurs when senior citizens are tricked and/or bullied into giving up money via sophisticated schemes.

It is the fastest growing form of elder abuse scams relative to other kinds.

Over 5 million senior citizens are the victims of scams every year, yet only 1-in-44 of them ever report it.

Elderly people are scammed out of anywhere between $3 billion to $36.5 billion annually due to heinous scamming.

There are no hard estimates because most don’t report abuse.

Before presenting the list of the five worst scams that target the elderly, let’s examine why the elderly are the preferred victims of scammers.

Age of Opportunism

According to the FBI, the elderly are nearly perfect victim for scams artists.

More senior citizens own their home outright relative to younger or middle-aged people.

They are more likely to have excellent credit, regular pension payments, nest egg bank accounts, and significant home equity.

Baby Boomers, and people born between the 1930s through the 1950s, are generally excessively polite to strangers, especially over the phone, and have a hard time saying no.

They are also inclined to respect authority figures, even impostors who present themselves as such.

Older people are prone to getting ill, getting injured, becoming forgetful, developing dementia, and so on. This may necessitate them staying home often to becoming home bound.

Senior citizens who live on their own can become very lonely, depressed, and detached from a modern world very unlike their own youth.

Sophisticated scam artists know how to play on those facts to their advantage.

Even when caught, there may not be much that can be done. Some elderly are very forgetful, suffer from dementia, mix up facts, or are too embarrassed to provide information or testify against their abuser.

For someone with psychopathic tendencies, zero empathy, and a willingness to exploit old people, being a scam artist can be a very lucrative endeavor.

Here are five scams that elderly people should look out for.

The Woodchuck Scammer

“Woodchuck,” scams are prevalent after major storms and hurricanes.

Or, woodchuck scammers will case neighborhoods and look for lonely elderly people who are trimming their hedges, cutting their grass, or enacting other kinds of home repair.

Woodchuck scammers present themselves as a home contractor or repair specialist.

They will ingratiate themselves, gain trust, and project a sense of authoritative professionalism.

Then, the woodchuck scammer will begin politely, and soon aggressively, suggesting that they are hired to enact lots of imaginary repairs.

Even if they suggest being hired to do real work, like removing felled trees, fixing roofs, doing home chores, and so on, they charge elderly targets thousands of dollars in fees.

Never trust strangers who happen upon your home asking to be paid for work they believe your home needs. Also, never allow real, licensed and certified contractors to pressure you into hiring them.

Call the police if you experience harassment by a woodchuck scammer.

The Mortgage Evaluation Scam

If you own your home, a mortgage, have ever been nearly foreclosed on, or applied for an FHA loan, your information as a homeowner could be publicly available online.

It does not take a lot of effort for a scam artist to drive through a neighborhood, look for lonely, elderly homeowners, write down addresses, and then cross reference that information online.

Savvy scammers will check social media posts to verify and recheck their information.

Then, the scammer will send the elderly person an official looking letter identifying themselves as a mortgage specialist.

The letter will say that their home may be badly undervalued, and for a fee, a proper mortgage reassessment can be conducted to ascertain the true value of the home.

Then, the scammer will follow up the letter with phone calls and perhaps a personal visit.

The best way to avoid this scam is to ignore it and call the cops if you are harassed. Don’t let a stranger tell you that you don’t know the value of your own home.

The Lottery and Sweepstakes Scam

Scam artists will call posing as telemarketers, lottery or sweepstakes officials, legal representatives or some other authority figure.

They will call and claim that you have won a million dollars, luxury vacation, new car, or some other grand prize.

Then, they will say that the only way to claim the prize is a pay a kind of claimant fee to cover contest expenses, taxes, or operational expenses.

They will stress that you must pay as soon as possible by credit card, debit card, money order, or wire transfer. Or, they may even offer to show up and accept cash.

Arrangements may be made to send you a phony award check on the condition that after you deposit it you promptly pay the desired claimant fee.

By the time the check bounces, your real lottery claimant fee is long gone.

According to the Senate Aging Committee’s Fraud Hotline, lottery and sweepstakes scams were the third most-complained about scam by senior citizens in 2018.

Anything that sounds too good to be true usually is.

No one pays a fee to claim a lottery or sweepstakes win.

Taxes are paid only after you claim your prize from the official office of the lottery or sweepstakes you participated in.

Social Security Scam

A scam artist calls up unsuspecting elderly people in an aggressive and authoritarian tone demanding personal details about their account.

They will claim there is a serious problem with the account. There may be suspicions of fraudulent or suspicious activity.

Or, threats could be intimated that the account could be closed imminently or that the police could be notified.

The scam artist could assume a friendly tone as well and say that a benefits increase is in the offing.

Scam artists can make a caller ID project the number of a Social Security office or send official looking letters.

Elderly people fall for these scams because they are prone to believe people who present themselves as authority figures.

Either way, there will be demands for personal information or money to stop an investigation, suspension of benefits, or for the authorization of increase of benefits.

You can call Social Security via their official hotline, 800-772-1213 and check the status of your account.

Never let a stranger tell you about your account. Hang up on any stranger who tries this on you.

The I.R.S. Panic Scam

The I.R.S. scam is the #1 scam most complained about by elderly people. A scam artist calls identifying themselves with a fake title and insisting they are a representative of the I.R.S.

They inform victims that they owe significant sums of money to the I.R.S.

Then, the scam artist will demand that the phony outstanding balance is paid immediately, or that a fee is paid to stop an investigation, potential arrest, deportation, and so on.

In reality, the I.R.S. sends warning letters in such situations. And no agent will ever call you up demanding a wire transfer, credit card, or cash payment to suspend an investigation.

Hang up on anyone who tries this.

Vigilance is the Key

Check up on any elderly relatives or neighbors you know, especially if they live on their own. Remind them to never give out personal information.

Tell them to ask questions and demand verification of identity anyone presenting themselves as an authority. They should never feel pressured or bullied by strangers and call police if they feel threatened.

Unfortunately, these scams are most effective on lonely elderly people who are depressed, or who may be suffering from dementia.

Elderly people with immigration status problems are also susceptible.

Their best line of defense against scam artists may be relatives and friends who care enough to inform them how to protect themselves.

Read More

How to Get Money Back from Western Union Scams

Examples of Fraudulent Real Estate Practices

How to Prevent Fraud and Identity Theft


Posted in: Life Hacks, Saving Money, saving money

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