How to avoid elder fraud: A guide for older people, carers, and relatives

Abeerah Hashim Last updated: September 17, 2022 Read time: 23 minutes Disclosure

Our elderly fellow citizens are the target of elder financial fraud. It inflicts massive losses on them, and it's a significant problem for everybody since they tend to be the most influential persons in their environments. In this article, we tell you what elder fraud is and how it presents its ugly face so you can know how to keep it away from your loved ones.

Elder financial abuse, elder financial exploitation, or elder fraud is the usurpation of financial resources that harms an elderly victim. In most cases, it occurs in a relationship where the perpetrator holds a privileged position or is highly trusted.

FBI concluded as the elder population keeps increasing, elder fraud has become a growing problem. As a result, the financial damage ascends to 3 billion USD annually. But those reported cases don’t represent even the tip of the iceberg. Other, more profound studies and estimations put the number of instances more on the five-million line, and the economic damage at 27.4 billion USD. So the reality could be one or two orders of magnitude above the official figures.

Given the severity of the issue, this article digs deeper into the subject of elder fraud. Today, you’ll know what an elderly fraud is, why the elderly are such a juicy target for scammers, and how you can help the seniors around you to stay safe from con artists.

Common elder fraud types – Quick list

  1. Fraudulent investment plans. The elderly need investments that pay fast. That’s how they get defrauded.
  2. Insurance fraud scams. Even legitimate, licensed insurance agents have been known to practice this scam.
  3. Grandparent scams. An alleged grandchild calls grandpa or grandma to ask for some money urgently.
  4. Lottery frauds. The fraudsters convince you about winning some lottery that you had not noticed.
  5. Charity-justified fraud. Even fraud can happen for the sake of a seemingly good cause.
  6. Health-related scams. The increased need for health services and resources, like the elderly, allows scammers to come in.
  7. Identity theft. The ultimate hacker currency are alternate identities.
  8. IRS-related schemes. A scammer calls impersonating an IRS officer. Fear does the rest.
  9. Reverse mortgage systems. These are not scams, in theory. They are legitimate financial instruments. However, they can escalate so quickly as to break the user.
  10. Widow schemes. Probably the most inhumane scam, it takes advantage of the confusion a recent mourner experiences after the loss.
  11. Romance scams. Loneliness in the elderly makes them vulnerable to the abuse of persons pretending to have a romantic interest in them.
  12. Tech support frauds. An impersonator tries to gain remote access to your system and manipulate it to steal information in the future.
  13. Anti-aging products scams. Vanity is a terrible reason for suffering a fraud, but it happens.

What is Elder fraud?

Elder fraud refers to fraudulent activities specifically aimed at senior citizens. Such online scams may either come from strangers or include people known to the victims as family or friends. If the attackers are strangers, the scam executes either online or via phone calls.

Email is a typical route to establish contact with an elderly victim. The perpetrators send numerous phishing emails to addresses held by seniors, with messages related to,

  • Health or medical issues (discount prescriptions and health coverage included).
  • Financial support (saving for retirement, home equity issues, and more).
  • Friendship or camaraderie.

But these aren’t the only ones. More carefully devised schemes may involve personalized emails or phone calls. The intelligence that allows preparing such a sophisticated approach to the victim comes from the victim’s information in phishing attacks.