7 Most Common Scams Targeting Senior Living Residents

April 26, 2021

The National Council on Aging warns of technology-related scams impacting seniors since over 2/3 of Americans greater than 65 years old are using internet services. To ensure your senior or assisted living residents (and other senior friends) avoid potential technology scams, here’s a breakdown of common threats and how to deal with them. 

1. Funeral & cemetery scams

In one approach, scammers read obituaries and call or attend the funeral service of a stranger to take advantage of the grieving widow or widower. Claiming the deceased had an outstanding debt with them, scammers will try to extort money from relatives to settle the fake debts.

2. Fraudulent anti-aging products

Whether it’s fake Botox like the one in Arizona that netted its distributors (who were convicted and jailed in 2006) $1.5 million in barely a year, or completely bogus homeopathic remedies that do absolutely nothing, there is money in the anti-aging business.

3. Telemarketing or phone scams

Perhaps the most common scheme is when scammers use fake telemarketing calls to prey on older people, who as a group make twice as many purchases over the phone than the national average. Schemes range from faking an accident by a child or relative to get a wire transfer or soliciting money for fake charities.

4. Internet fraud

While using the Internet is a great skill at any age, the slower speed of adoption among some older people makes them easier targets for automated Internet scams that are ubiquitous on the web and email programs. Pop-up browser windows simulating virus-scanning software will fool victims into either downloading a fake anti-virus program (at a substantial cost) or an actual virus that will open up whatever information is on the user’s computer to scammers.

5. Investment schemes

Several investment schemes have been targeted at seniors looking to safeguard their cash for their later years. From pyramid schemes like Bernie Madoff’s to complex financial products that many economists don’t even understand, investment schemes have long been a successful way to take advantage of older people.

6. Sweepstakes & lottery scams

This simple scam is one that many are familiar with, and it capitalizes on the notion that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Here, scammers inform their mark that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes of some kind and need to make some sort of payment to unlock the supposed prize. Often, seniors will be sent a check that they can deposit in their bank account, knowing that while it shows up in their account immediately, it will take a few days before the (fake) check is rejected. During that time, the criminals will quickly collect money for supposed fees or taxes on the prize, which they pocket while the victim has the “prize money” removed from his or her account as soon as the check bounces.

7. The grandparent scam

Scammers will place a call to an older person and say something along the lines of: “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” When the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild the scammer most sounds like, the scammer has established a fake identity without having done a lick of background research. Once “in,” the fake grandchild will usually ask for money to solve some unexpected financial problem.

So, what can you do?

  • Create passwords and make them strong.
  • Reach out directly to the company by phone to determine if an email is legitimate or not.
  • Adjust privacy settings to limit who can see your information and avoid sharing your location.
  • Install security software on your devices from a reliable source and keep it updated.
  • Run anti-virus and anti-spyware software regularly and be wary of security updates from pop-up ads or emails. Use the default firewall security protection on your computer.
  • Adjust your settings in each internet browser to set your options for optimum security. Those menus can often be found in the upper right corner of your browser. Consider clearing your browsing history at the end of your session, so you don’t leave a trail of sensitive data.
  • Take a quick Online Safety Course from services like the Center for Cyber Security and Education.

For cybersecurity tips related to your organization, reach out to your Marsh & McLennan Agency team and learn about cyber best practices you can implement today.