Types of Scams

Con artists and scammers have been targeting seniors for decades, but lately we’re seeing these scams getting bolder, more clever, and more successful. Digital technology has also moved many of these scams beyond phone and into email, text messages, and even social media. A new elder scam is invented every day, but here is a list of some of the most common ones to watch out for:

Investment Scams
The scammer is an untrustworthy financial advisor who convinces your {{mom}} to purchase investments or sign legal documents that are bad for {{her}} but good for the scammer! In the worst case, there’s no investment at all and the money is simply stolen.

Fake Emergency
Your mom gets an urgent phone call, email, or Facebook message from someone pretending to be a grandchild or other relative who is in a terrible emergency. The scammer claims that unless she wires money immediately, her grandson will be arrested or worse!

Romance Scam (thanks Leah!)
Your mom strikes up an online friendship with someone who makes her feel special and a lot less lonely, but her new friend has some money problems. It usually starts with a small request, but pretty soon your mom is being asked for larger and larger amounts. In many cases the scammer has created a totally fake Facebook identity and may not even live in the same state or country! And the scammer is probably "friending" dozens of seniors in the hopes of cashing in.

Fake IRS Bill (or other Government Agency)
This one starts as a phone call, letter, or email. The call may even have a legitimate looking Caller ID, like “Internal Revenue” or “US Customs.” The scammer tries to convince your mom that she is in big trouble, but if she wires money immediately to the “agency,” she won’t be sued or jailed.

Fake Lottery
This scam starts as good news: your mom just won the lottery! But (and there’s always a “but”), she has to pay a few thousand dollars in taxes before she can claim her winnings. Sometimes the scammers even send a legitimate looking check, knowing that by the time the check bounces, they will be long gone with your mom’s money.

Credit Card Phishing
The scammer calls claiming to be “Card Services,” and their Caller ID may look legit. The scammer says there’s a problem with your mom’s card and asks her to verify the card number, expiration date, and security code. By the time your mom hangs up, the scammer is already buying things on her card!

Password Phishing
These come as an email or text message claiming a problem with your mom’s credit card or online bank account. But instead of going to the correct website, the link in the message takes her to a fake site that looks exactly like the real one. When she tries to log into the fake site, the scammer captures her password and starts draining her account.

Pushing Unneeded Stuff
These may not even be illegal, but many aggressive sales people know that older folks can be easy targets for magazine subscriptions, extra cable channels, and other things that your mom doesn’t need and won’t use. Be especially careful of subscriptions that may start with a low price at first but increase sharply after a few months.