Senior Scams – How Can You Help?

This page will be a great resource to support the videos, and your efforts to reach, teach, and protect seniors from scams.

You’ll learn the essential facts and background of the scams, why seniors are such a big target, the most common types of scams, and all the things you and others can do to help.

How Much Do Seniors Lose To Fraud, Scams, And Cybercrimes Every Year?

According to an organization called Consumer Affairs, which gets its information from the FBI and other reliable resources, more than 3.5 million older adults are victims of scams and frauds every years, losing a total of more than $3 billion each year, and suffering an average loss of $34,200.

That works out to more than $8 million being stolen from seniors every 24 hours.

The Devastating Hidden Cost

The impact of these scams goes far beyond financial. Knowing they’ve been scammed can significantly hurt their self-confidence, their ability to trust, their willingness to engage with others, to be alone at home, even cause a deterioration in their physical and mental health.

If they can’t get their money back, it could run their retirement. We came across one victim who lost all of his $1 million life savings to a scammer who had convinced him he had one the lottery.

The Most Common Types Of Scams

According to the FBI, the most common types of scams targeted at seniors are:

  • Romance scams – scammers pretending to be romantically interested and constantly asking for money.
  • Government imposter scams – scammers pretending to be from a government agency and asking for payment or personal information.
  • Identity theft – using a senior’s personal information to commit fraud and steal money in their name.
  • Prizes and lotteries – “you won a massive prize but you have to pay these fees and taxes upfront.”
  • Fake businesses – businesses charging for a product or service they never deliver. For example, offering to fix a roof, asking for a large down-payment, then disappearing.
  • Fake investments – “we’ll help make your retirement go much further.”
  • Tech support – “Hi we’re from Microsoft and we’ve detected a virus on your computer. We’ll charge you $X to get rid of it.”
  • Timeshare scams – high pressure sales tactics to sell over-priced or non-existent timeshares.
  • Family and friend imposter – “Hi Grandma, I’m in jail and I need to be bailed out,” or “I lost my wallet on vacation, can you wire me some money?”
  • Online shopping scams – often spam email containing links to fake bargains.

Why Are Seniors Such An Easy Target?

  • They often live alone and with no one to protect them.
  • They’re often lonely and enjoy a chat with a stranger.
  • They’ve been taught to be more trusting and helpful.
  • They don’t like to be rude to strangers.
  • They can feel helpless and afraid and especially when being pressured or bullied.
  • They might not be too comfortable with technology.
  • They can be more trusting of official-looking documents or phone calls pretending to from the IRS, Social Security, a government agency, or even their bank or credit union.
  • They often have great credit that is worth stealing.
  • They often don’t report the crime because they’re too ashamed.
  • They pay a lot of bills by mail, which exposes them to mail and identity theft
  • They’re much more vulnerable to romance scams.
  • They often have no one to turn to for advice.

So What Can You Do To Help Them?

Well, you can work on your own, with your family, with some friends, or as an entire class project.

Remind yourself of what it is you’re trying to do. You’re not just trying to protect your grandparents, you’re trying to teach them how to protect themselves, and to find ways to remind themselves to be constantly vigilant.

You want them to be aware of the risks, comfortable and confident that they can spot and avoid the traps, and willing to contact you whenever they’re in any doubt.

And that working together, you’re making it as hard as possible for these very bad people to steal any more money and ruin any more lives.

Step 1

Talk to your parents first. It’s important that they know what you’re trying to do, and they might have some valuable insights to offer.

You might also need your parents help with any financial issues, like helping your grandparents move to online banking, or freezing their credit reports.

And of course, these are great lessons for your parents too.


The first and best thing to do is learn what the scams are, how they work, and how your grandparents can learn to spot and avoid them. Or how to respond if they feel they’re caught in the middle of one.

So make sure you use these videos and other resources to get familiar with the basics.


Talk to your grandparents, let them know what you’re doing, and ask them if they would like to be involved. Involved means nothing more than working together to identify all the different types of scams and frauds, what they’re going to look and sound like, and how your grandparents should react.


If they’re comfortable, talk to your grandparents about technology.

And especially:

  • What phishing and spam emails are and who’s behind them.
  • What financial accounts they have and how they protect them.
  • Whether they’re comfortable banking online if they haven’t already started.
  • If they’d consider freezing their credit reports, and we have a separate guide for that.
  • How they should monitor and check their bank and credit card accounts.
  • Checking their passwords to make sure that they’re all strong, not reused, and always well protected.
  • Would they be comfortable learning how to use something like a password manager?
  • Do they know how to keep their computer software updated?


Create a simple single-page checklist that they can post on a refrigerator and in front of their computer. This should list all the most common scams, all the telltale signs that it is a scam, and all the reminders for dealing with them.

  • For example, government organizations or agencies will won’t call or e-mail. They’ll usually send an official letter.
  • Real companies and agencies won’t ask to be paid by gift cards or wire transfers.
  • If they get a text, phone call, or e-mail claiming to be from their bank, they shouldn’t respond but instead contact the customer service number of their bank directly.
  • If they’re approached romantically online or in person, if they’re not comfortable, just ignore the advances. Or ask others for their opinions.. Understand
  • Reminders to change their passwords, check their bank accounts, check their statements and so on.
  • If someone is offering to do work on their house, who to involve for a second opinion.
  • Who to call if they’re worried about any potential scam.