Fraud PreventionSeniors are being targeted by unscrupulous people everywhere, and the attacks are becoming so prevalent and diverse that it can be difficult to determine what is real and what is a scam. What’s even sadder is that this is considered an “easy crime”, as these attacks can be difficult to prosecute and are not often reported to authorities.

Scammers think that there is an excessive amount of money sitting around in bank accounts owned by seniors, making them an incredibly attractive target. However, older adults are not always equipped to respond to a scam quickly and the results of this abuse can be devastating. Here are some of the major scams that are currently targeting seniors and how to avoid them.


Seniors who are active online are the ideal candidates for a ransomware attack. These cyber crimes are increasingly sophisticated and can appear to be very similar to a message from Microsoft or other known computer authorities. In many ransomware attacks, a computer that is attached to the internet is frozen or rendered unusable. A message will often display, purporting to be from Microsoft, with a phone number to call to “remove the virus” causing the problem.

Unfortunately, when you get on the phone you will quickly discover that the individuals purely want your credit card information or other methods of payment in order to “cleanse” your computer — when in reality all they are doing is removing the virus.

Coach older family members and friends that the best thing to do in this case is to turn off your computer, turn off the WiFi or internet connection to that computer and take it to a repair shop to see if it can be salvaged. Getting offline as quickly as possible is critical, as the longer you are online the more of your personal information is at risk.  

Anti-Aging or Miracle Products

If there was a miracle cure for aging, it would be on every shelf of every store in every neighborhood. One of the oldest scams are the overpriced creams, potions and lotions that are sold on late-night television or on the internet. While some of these products may be slightly beneficial, few if any will have the life-changing effects that you will hear from the over-hyped salespeople.

Miracle products that clean your home for you, anti-wrinkle creams that take 15 years off of your face in 5 minutes or less — these are all items that prey on older Americans who may be living on a fixed income. Be aware that free trial offers where you provide your credit card can turn into a monthly subscription that is difficult to cancel once it has been started.

Reverse Mortgages

Many individuals in this stage of life are looking for ways to invest their money that will protect the principle while it continues to grow. Others are in the unenviable position of needing what scammers call a “reverse mortgage”, which sounds better than “equity loan”. Essentially, seniors who need extra income on a monthly basis are convinced that they can sign away rights to their home and receive a monthly payout from the loan. There are no monthly mortgage payments, and when the borrower dies or leaves the property the loan is then repaid.

This is an extremely tricky and expensive way to borrow money against the equity in your home because borrowers will be paying extensive fees and interest on the loan which could have gone into their estate instead.

These are only a few of the many scams that target senior citizens. Others include Medicare and prescription scams, phony IRS calls, impersonating grandchildren asking for money, bogus timeshares, fraudulent sweepstakes, and more. While most seniors are far from helpless, it is easy for individuals of any age to fall prey to these criminals because of their sophisticated approach that often reeks of realism. Help the seniors in your life by educating them about the potential dangers inherent in shopping online and any other offer that seems too good to be true — because it generally is.