How to Protect Seniors from Scams

Each year, millions of seniors fall victim to a number of different types of fraud or financial schemes, reports the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Sadly, many scammers target elderly individuals because they believe they can win over their trust and confidence. Most often, seniors become subject to technology, romance, impersonation, lottery, home repair or caregiver scams. Although there are thousands of scam attempts targeting seniors each day, there are ways to help educate and protect your loved ones.

Explain the risks of giving out personal information: First and foremost, seniors and elderly loved ones should be told why exactly giving out personal information over the phone or internet can be extremely dangerous. Emphasize to them that if someone asks for their personal information, they should call the source the person claims to work for, to verify that the request is valid. They should also resist the urge to act quickly. Ultimately, if the individual feels unsure or concerned, they should know to reach out to someone they trust for a second opinion or advice.

Do an online name search: To assess how easily accessible your loved one’s contact information is, simply search their name, number, address and emails in a search engine. Whatever information you can find, know that others searching the internet can find this as well. In many cases, the site may be able to remove this personal information upon request. If they don’t answer or refuse to take the information down, contact support through the search engine by which you found the website.

Install antivirus software: If your loved one has computer access, make sure you install antivirus and security software to protect against hackers. Malware protection should also be up-to-date. When selecting an antivirus software or firewall, ensure that the brand is reputable.

Inquire about “too-good-to-be-true” scenarios: In the case of sweepstakes and giveaways, seniors often become too excited by the prospects to consider the validity. Instead of addressing the possibility of a scam directly, AARP suggests that individuals instead ask questions about how they can participate in the same sweepstakes. This will lead the individual to explain how they came across it, what information they provided, and who they spoke with. That way, you can determine for yourself if the sweepstakes seems suspicious. If you determine the giveaway to be a scam, and your loved one is reluctant to believe you, have them call the AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center toll-free at 800-646-2283.

As the Baby Boomer population ages and a larger elder community emerges, warning about elderly scams is as important as ever. Prevention is key, because it is common for seniors who have been scammed to feel too ashamed to report the crime. Furthermore, they may not understand how to report a financial scheme to the authorities. 

If you believe you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud, contact your local FBI field office or submit a tip online. You can also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center

Learn More About Senior Scams


5 Elderly-Focused Charities

As people age, they may require increased aid to be able to navigate the requirements of daily life. For this reason, there are a number of nonprofit organizations which serve to assist the aging and elderly adult communities. From helping seniors receive necessary support to assisting with education and training and coordinating companionship, these organizations are working to change the lives of so many individuals for the better. For those looking to make a financial or volunteer contribution to a charity that focuses on improving the lives of seniors and aging adults, here are five organizations worth learning about:

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America: The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) provides education and support to individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease. The organization also assists patient families and caregivers, and funds research toward improved treatments and a cure. Founded in 2012 by a caregiver, AFA offers a variety of resource materials, support groups and information for family caregivers, as well as training for healthcare professionals. Further, to help individuals take a proactive approach to brain health, AFA has a National Memory Screening Program which provides free, confidential memory screenings at sites across the country. Donate here.

Pets for the Elderly Foundation: The Pets for the Elderly Foundation (PFE) facilitates companionship between seniors and pets. The late Avrum (Avvy) Katz founded PFE in 1992 with a vision to provide companionship to senior individuals through pet ownership while saving the lives of companion animals in shelters. Today, PFE has helped facilitate over 78,000 happy-ending adoption stories between seniors and shelter animals across the U.S. PFE helps pay the fees to participating animal shelters throughout the United States for senior citizens (age 60 and over) who adopt a companion dog or cat from a participating shelter — including pre-adoption veterinary exams and spay/neuter if part of the adoption fee. Donate here.

Oasis: Founded in 1982, Oasis is a nonprofit educational organization that is active in over 250 communities and reaches more than 50,000 individuals each year. The mission is to promote healthy aging through lifelong learning, active lifestyle and volunteer engagement. Oasis seeks to positively impact lives through partnerships to share knowledge, offer evidence- and research-based programs, conduct evaluations and adapt to meet the needs of diverse audiences. Donate here.

Second Wind Dreams: Second Wind Dreams is a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the perception of aging through the fulfillment of dreams and the offering of educational programs including its flagship sensitivity training, the Virtual Dementia Tour. Since its foundation in 1997, Second Wind Dreams has become involved in more than 1000 eldercare communities in 20 countries. Weaving thousands of dreams from the simple to the sublime, the mission of Second Wind Dreams is simple — to change the perception of aging through the fulfillment of dreams and the offering of innovative educational opportunities to caregivers and communities. Donate here.

SeniorNet: SeniorNet is on a mission to empower a community of older adults to leverage technology and share wisdom. The organization helps older adults take advantage of new technology that can improve their quality of life, reduce isolation and engage with others in new and interesting ways. This is done by connecting older adults with each other and with both physical and online communities. SeniorNet also monitors the most useful technology for older adults and provides reviews, online training and access to tools. Additionally, the team engages in research programs to better understand the interaction between older adults and technology. Donate here.

Additional Senior Charities