C3A Consortium

Awareness, Advocacy, Action in Combating Elder Abuse

Financial Scams That Target Seniors and Deplete Savings

Wonder why older adults are prime targets for con artists and scammers?

According to the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, persons over the age of 50 control more than 70% of the nation’s wealth. Due to a lifetime of hard work, frugality, and smart investing, older adults control a substantial portion the wealth in this country. Too often, however, illness and/or dementia negatively impact their ability to make sound financial decisions.

Up to $30 billion leaves the United States as a result of scams that target seniors. Protect the elders in your family by familiarizing yourself, and them, with the following financial scams:

  • IRS Scam:Someone claiming to be an IRS agent calls and states that the older adult has failed to pay his taxes and a warrant will be issued for his arrest unless he makes payment arrangements, usually by giving out credit card or bank account information, or by purchasing a pre-paid “green dot” debit card.
  • Jury Scam: Similar to the IRS scam.  The caller claims that the older adult has failed to show up for jury duty and that a warrant has been issued for his or her arrest. The scam target can avoid arrest by paying a fine over the phone.
  • The Grandma Scam: Someone claiming to be the senior’s grandchild, friend, or or the child’s attorney, calls and states that the grandchild is in legal, or some other trouble, and needs to have money wired for bail or car repairs.  A key component of this scam is that the “grandma” is asked to not tell anyone, not even the parents of his/her grandchild.
  • Sweepstakes Scam: the older adult target receives a letter, or phone call, informing her that she has won a sweepstakes. However, she must send a check to cover income taxes. Once the scammer has deposited the check, he will call his target and say, “There’s been an error. Too much money has been deposited in your account, and some of the money must be wired back.”  The original deposit will, of course, be no good.

Some of these frauds and scams fund out-of-country criminal gang – possibly terrorist – activity.  There can be layers of money laundering to obfuscate the final destination of the money – usually Canada, Nigeria or Jamaica.

Alert your family and loved ones. It’s always a red flag when the target of a cold call is warned not to tell anyone, to pay the money quickly (sometimes by the end of that day), and/or to pay via pre-paid debit card or to wire money.

If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. If you, or your beloved elder, did not enter a sweepstakes or lottery, then you could not have won the prize. No government agency will call you and demand money over the phone.

Never send money or give out personal information, such as your date of birth, social security number, bank account or credit card account information to anyone who calls you.  Call a trusted relative or friend and report any attempt to perpetrate a scam to the U.S. Postal Inspector at 1-877-876-2455, the Ohio Attorney General at 1-800-282-0515, or to your local police department.

Kelli K. Perk, Esquire
Vice Chair
C3A Consortium Against Adult Abuse

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