Scams Aimed at Seniors and How to Avoid them

Scams Aimed at Seniors and How to Avoid them

Scamming seniors has become a big business. The advent of the internet was an absolute gift for con artists, who gained a powerful tool with which to part the unsuspecting from their money. But the senior consumer does have a way to fight back. Knowledge is power – when you're aware of the most common cons it's easier to distinguish potential scams from legitimate opportunities.

Confidence tricksters target seniors because they're perceived as being too polite to say no, easily intimidated, trusting, with money in the bank. This is a gross generalisation, of course; many seniors are just as savvy as their younger counterparts. But some seniors are vulnerable, and these are the people scammers target.

Confidence scams aren't limited to the web. Scams can arrive in the form of telephone calls, letters, emails, or in person in the form of a con artist on your doorstep.

1) Low investment/high return investment schemes

The perpetrators of scam investment schemes prey on people's greed. They promise unrealistic returns for your money. "Give us $500 a month and earn $5000, or $10,000, or more!" The reality is that you'll give them your money and that will be the end of it. Goodbye money.

If an offer seems too good to be true, it usually is. Use your common sense and gut instincts. Before investing money in any scheme, do your homework. Check out the company with the Better Business Bureau. Go to your local Chamber of Commerce or police station and ask their advice, or ask your Bank Manager if they think the scheme is legitimate. Go online and do a search under the company's name.

2) Nigerian scams

This scam involves an unsolicited email from someone in the Third World (often Africa) who asks for your help in claiming a large amount of money which belongs to them, but to which they can't get access. They want you to help them get the money out of their country, and in return they offer to give you a share. All they need are your bank details. They will then proceed to siphon money from your account.

These cons have been around for years, but people still fall for them.

3) Fake lotteries

Congratulations, you've won the Spanish/UK/Canadian lottery! Despite the fact that you've never entered! Please ignore the fact that we've misspelled several words in our email and have only a very rudimentary grasp of English grammar. Send us your bank details anyway and we'll clear out your account. Or just send us an administrative fee to claim your "prize" and you'll never hear from us again.

4) Fake sweepstakes

Be suspicious of any sweepstake that asks for money before you can claim your prize. If you win a prize you should never be asked to pay any taxes up front. That's between you and the IRS. Legitimate prize draws never demand money for fees or administrative costs, and they will never ask for your bank details. Also be suspicious of automated telephone calls with recorded messages that announce you've won a prize or a trip. When you win a legitimate prize a real human being will phone you.

Don't reply to any mail (either email or via the post) you receive announcing you've a prize if the message looks at all trashy or overly hyped. When you win a legitimate prize you'll be contacted directly by the sponsor or their marketing company via a non-flashy email, letter, or phone call.

5) Fake charities

Scammers pretending to work for charities often crop up in the aftermath of natural disasters. Fake charities were a problem after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. These people show up at your door with very convincing stories.

Don't give money to door-to-door canvassers if you're not familiar with the charity, or if they can't demonstrate that they're legitimate. Don't let strangers into your home, even if they do claim to work for a charity.

If you're at all unsure, ask for information to be sent to you. If the charity is real, they'll be happy to send it.

6) High pressure sales calls

Telephone salespeople can be extremely persuasive and they're not all working for reputable companies. Some are charming and persuasive; others are pushy and persuasive. They're bullies, in other words. These people prey on the good manners of older citizens, who may have been taught that it's rude to hang up abruptly.

Remember that it's NOT impolite to give a firm, "I'm not interested, thanks," before putting the phone down on an unwanted salesperson. They called you uninvited, after all. You don't owe them a conversation.

If you're being plagued by sales calls, put yourself on a national "no call" list. You can register online at This will stop a lot of calls, but the real scammers aren't likely to be deterred.

Learn to hang up on them.

7) Home improvement scams

This con starts with a salesman or tradesman coming to your door and informing you that you're in urgent need of a new roof, siding, driveway, etc. You will then be massively overcharged, or billed for work that wasn't necessary in the first place.

Always get a second opinion from a reputable local builder or tradesman before agreeing to hire someone who appears on your doorstep.

8) Phishing

This scam begins with an email purporting to be from your bank or credit card provider, which asks you to click on a link and log into your account. You'll then be taken to a counterfeit webpage that may look very much like your bank's site. Once you log-in, the scammers have your username and password. They then go to the real bank's website and use your log-in details to steal money from your account. They're "fishing" for the one or two people in ten thousand who will fall for the fake email. Phishing emails and websites can be very convincing; if you're tempted to click on a link, call your bank first. They'll be able to confirm whether the message is from them or not.

There's one fairly simple way to avoid falling victim to internet scammers - don't open email if you don't recognise the sender. Just by opening spam emails you can enable viruses that infect your computer and allow scammers to gather information about you.

Remember that the main goal of scam artists is to take your money. They're very persuasive and don't want you to go away and ask for advice, or take time to think about their "offer". Be extremely wary of sales people who try to pressure you into making a decision immediately. Never reveal personal information like bank or credit card details, or your social security number. If you're made an offer that seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. Trust your instincts, keep yourself informed about common scams, and you'll avoid becoming some conman's latest victim.

Comments (7)

Scamming? What a nice polite way to write theft or premeditated organized crime.

Let me let you in on a not so well known fact about internet scams; a large aspect of it is highly organized and well structured including untracible bank accounts and multiple players. By that I mean you are often not dealing with a single thief. In one sitting I have dealt with up to 6, with each one being more intelligent and better versed in grammar and manipulation techniques.

Often from day to day you may be chatting / texting with a different thief. How would you know who you are texting? You just think you know.

These turds should either be included in the terrorist act or treated like the criminals they are.

Just recently the number of premeditated thieves contacting me on CS has gone through the roof, at least 5 per day. I could leave but stuff it, why should I? Besides they are now everywhere, on every chat or dating site.

For anyone contacting me on CS I have one standard reply:

"So far 99% of those who contact me on this site have been scammers and liars but more importantly total time wasters. If this accurately describes you trust me when I say you will get not one thing from me no matter what your sob story and to date I have pretty much heard them all.

Bottom line is if you are not willing to show your face on cam (to which I will naturally reciprocate once I see you actually are who you allegedly claim to be) then we have no more to say to each other.


That does not imply nor does it indicate that you can automatically trust some one who is willing to show their face on cam; far from it. (It does weed them out though.)

I have chatted on cam recently with 2 different females whose faces matched their profiles and both requested I send them money for some reason or another; rent, a new phone, plane fare so they could come visit.

Bottom line, if someone contacts you on the internet or smart phone, accept, not assume, accept they are a scammer until they prove them selves otherwise. And even then, don't send them money. That's just stupid.
On dating sites they target older people many of whom are not savvy about the internet . I'm so wise to them now I can tell all their tricks .... they nearly always call you dear which is laughable they earn 10000 to 15000 a year they have high flying career executive management or some kind of engineering they have masters degree or PhD yet can't write English while telling you they are American citizen with photos that may look much younger than age they say they are look different from their description of themselves might say in profile black eyes but one one they shows guy with blue eyes .... they want god fearing simple woman .....I've read them all .minute you say scammer they never message back .....never give email they ask for it after first message .they're despicable.
There are women, or at least photos of women, on this site, who contact older men and play up to them, encouraging them to change to email and stay in contact because they feel something for them.
Eventually money will be expected. Older singles must discuss their attraction and the way these connections are going, with a close, savvey person. An alert, knowledgeable person can pick up the inaccuracies in the received messages from the scammer who is making up their tale as they go along.
Men, be realistic! Don't message with women who are more than 10 years older than you and especially even younger women. Their interest in you is flattering but it is designed to bring you to a state where you will be putty in their hands. Date or converse with the opposite sex near your age!
You forgot about Romance scams.
I knew someone recently who was scammed on a dating site, he's passed away now, his family only just found out about it. He was very lonely guy, wished I had known what was going on, I would of reported themvery mad
I know its hurting. You call them third world people and can be able to strip millions of dollars smart first world guys. I find some of so called 'first worlds' very ignorant. You think people in africa are still in wholes like rats.
Travel around and see light is all over. Education is the mother of civilization lol. Today i got i shock watch a program of this american woman who is leaving the husband to go live in a small town in Kenya with her new find. The poor boy was even threatened by the presenter while he is single and the cheater was the woman. So the so called know all first world guys what do you want? The poor guy was being criticised coz he was genuine in love hasn't asked anyone for money and this american lady is bored with a big mansion with a busy career man. For sure she long for her freedom to so sweet guy who goner respect her ideas. The mum was terrified the daughter was going in a country full of diseases but she forget america has an embassy there sure most stuffs should be american. No one noted the boy could speak fluent english.When can people understand people are different and stop generalizing situations. Those who are scammed is because they want too. Why look for a 30 yrs old boy at 60 vice versa. You lie on your bed the way make it .....
My dad is in his 80s. He got a call purportedly from FBI officers in India (that should have had alarms bells ringing) who were hot on the tail of someone who had scammed my dad the year before. They said they needed seed money for the operation. My dad asked if I could lend him some money (he didn't say what it was for, and I didn't ask) I gave him $2000 and my brother gave him a thousand. Needless to say that was the last we saw of that money. He asked for more money but this time we asked what he needed it for, and said no. He was still convinced that he was going to get a big reward for helping the FBI catch the scammers ... we couldn't seem to get through to him that he was being scammed again.
So YES ... the elderly can be vulnerable.
My mum is in her 60s. She has a peephole and double locks on her door. She does not answer the door unless it's her building manager or her relatives. She has frustrated many a service person. She screens all her calls; if she doesn't know who's calling she doesn't answer the call. She doesn't sign anything unless one of her grown children is present (two of us are lawyers). My mother is naturally suspicious anyway and we've taught her well. So far, no scammer has been able to get by her.

Such a shame she has to be hyper-vigilant.

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