Sense & Centsibility Blog

Targeting Seniors

SeniorThis week is National Consumer Protection Week and today we offer some strategies to some of the most targeted consumers: seniors.

Senior citizens are the most targeted and exploited by scammers each year. Annually there is an average loss of $500-$1000 per victim and national total amounts reaching $37 billion.

I rob banks because that’s where the money is.

Willie Sutton, famous bank robber from the 1930s

Why is senior fraud such a problem? The 35 million Americans over the age of 65 are where the assets are. This is the retired population that have worked all of their lives and are perceived to have a hefty amount in savings.

The scammers targeting seniors can be complete strangers or even their own family. Sadly, over 90% of all reported financial elder abuse is committed by an older person’s own family members, most often their adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and others.

While it makes up a smaller portion, financial scams from strangers is still a problem and can be devastatingly costly. Learn to spot some of the most popular types of fraud and avoid those scammers.

Common Types of Fraud

Medicare/Health Insurance

In this scam, callers pose as a Medicare representative to get your personal information, or provide bogus services at makeshift mobile clinics, then use your personal information to bill Medicare for services that were never rendered to you and pocket the money.

Do not give out personal information out over the phone unless you initiated the call.


Online generated phone calls with fake caller ID numbers. One in particular is a fraudulent call from people claiming to represent the Social Security Administration. Unless you have ongoing business with them HANG UP! They do not make threats of jail or legal actions.

Grandparent Emergency Call

In this method, the caller will pretend to be a grandchild who’s been involved in an accident or legal woes and needs money immediately. If you receive one of these calls, slow the process down by hanging up and calling your grandchild to verify their whereabouts!

Affinity Fraud

This refers to an investment scam where con men/women are difficult to recognize because they constantly alter their disguise! They prey upon members of identifiable groups like ethnic communities; religious or professional groups and exploit the trust and friendship that exist in these groups of people who have something in common. This can often be a family member.

Don't be pressured or rushed into buying an investment before you have a chance to think about - or investigate - the opportunity.

Dealing with Scams

One in four seniors do not report fraud because they:

  • don’t know who to report it to
  • are too ashamed at having been scammed
  • don’t know they have been scammed
  • fear that relatives may think that they no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs

First and foremost, it is important that you report any scams you encounter. It’s a good way to help others avoid your experience.

You can report fraud targeting seniors to:

  1.  AARP ElderWatch at 1-800-222-4444 , option 
  2. Your state's attorney general office (Minnesota)

LSS Financial Counseling Resources

If a scam has you worried about your financial well-being, please call 888.577.2227 to set up an appointment with an LSS Financial Counseling. We can help get your budget in order and review your credit report. If you have been a victim of a scam, we can also help you navigate your situation, reporting the scam, and get you back on track financially.

LSS Financial Counseling also offers customized financial education workshops for groups and organizations, including a workshop centered on Senior Fraud Prevention. Learn more about our Financial Education Workshops.

Author Tonia Brinston is a Financial Educator with LSS Financial Counseling.