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Common Scams Targeting Seniors

13 September 2022

Scammers have a number of regular tactics they use to target their victims, with seniors being especially vulnerable. These can come in any form of communication and are trying to trick you into sharing your personal information and/or send them money through hard-to-trace sources (wire transfers, gift cards, cash, crypto, etc.). Here are some of common scam categories to look out for:



The Scam: Someone contacts you saying that you’ve won a prize or the lottery, but you need to pay a fee to collect it or give them secure personal information.

How to Stay Safe: Don’t interact with the scammer! Hang up on the caller; legitimate lotteries and contests will not ask you to pay a fee to collect a prize. State lotteries have official websites that will outline what you need to do to collect winnings and numbers you can call for assistance. Contests will have rules posted for the contest that outline how winner selection works.


Government Imposter

The Scam: You’re contacted by a supposed “authority figure” stating that you’ve done something wrong (committed a crime, missed a payment, owe taxes, etc.) and need to do as they say to rectify it.

How to Stay Safe: Do not interact with the scammer! Hang up the caller and go to an official source of information. Scammers can spoof phone numbers to make them appear to be official, so it’s important to hang up and call the official number. Not only will the government never call, text, email, or contact you through social media for an issue, any authority will not ask for personal information if they call you – you should only give information if you’ve called them. This scam relies on your panic and willingness to quickly resolve the issue; cease communication and take a step back from the situation before taking any action.


Money Mule

The Scam: Someone contacts you making a great offer or giving you a deal, but you have to do them a favor. This commonly involves sending money to you, then having you send that money to another person through hard-to-trace means, therefore hiding their money trail.

How to Stay Safe: Do not share personal information with and send money to people/business you do not know. The scammers are trying to make you an accomplice in a trail of ill-gotten gains, and you won’t receive any of the benefits they’re trying to convince you of. Keep yourself safe and don’t interact with the message at all.


Sweetheart Scam

The Scam: Someone contacts you wanting you trying to form a friendship/relationship and, at some point, asks you to do favors for them. The scammers prey on emotions and try to get you to view them as a trusted person who you know and who cares about you, but they refuse to meet in person.

How to Stay Safe: Do not share personal information with or send money to people/business you do not know and have met personally, regardless of the type of relationship they may try to form. If you’re being asked to give anyone money or information, speak to family, friends, your bank, etc.; they can help spot the red flags of a scam.


Tech Support Scam

The Scam: You’re contacted or receive a popup saying that something is wrong with your device, or you’ve downloaded a virus. They’ll fix it, but for a price.

How to Stay Safe: Tech support will not contact you out of the blue. If you’re concerned there may be a real issue with your devices, do not interact with the message pop-up or if someone calls you; go straight to official sites or phone numbers for more information, or go to a trusted repair location. You should also change your passwords immediately if you believe you’ve been scammed.


Family Imposter

The Scam: Someone contacts you either pretending to be a family member in a bad situation or claiming that they have a family member in a bad situation, and you need to send money to resolve the issue.

How to Stay Safe:  If they’re claiming to be a family member, hang up and call that family member or those close to them personally. If they’re claiming to have a family member in a bad situation, contact that family member and speak to your local police to either get help or confirm a situation. Family Imposter scams can be especially frightening for some, and the scammers are relying on you being concerned and following instructions quickly. Taking a step back and contacting the appropriate people can help you slow down the process and make it easier to make view the situation logically.


In any situation, if you’re suspicious, there are a few steps you can take immediately: don’t interact or stop interacting with the suspected scammer, talk to trusted people about it and go to official sources of information. By learning more about the red flags of common scams, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from being taken advantage of.


The American Banker’s Association has videos going into more detail on these types of scams and how to protect yourself. Watch their videos here.

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