Cona Elder Law


Five Tips for Protecting Seniors from Fraud


Scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated, from obtaining personal information through hacking to using artificial intelligence to replicate the voices of loved ones. In this environment, seniors often find themselves as prime targets for scam artists. As New York Senior Scams and Financial Fraud attorneys, we’ve seen firsthand the devastating impact elder financial abuse has on older adults and their families. In observance of Senior Fraud Awareness Day on May 15th, let’s explore effective strategies to safeguard older adults from fraud.

Educate Older Adults Regarding Scams

Knowledge is power, particularly when it comes to recognizing and avoiding scams. Discussing the most common senior scams with the older people in your life, including phishing emails, lottery or sweepstakes scams, and the notorious grandparent scam, can increase their ability to recognize the warning signs of a scam. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) are excellent resources for staying updated on the latest scams. Understanding the common tactics used by fraudsters can greatly reduce the risk of falling victim to these schemes.

Some popular scams that target older adults include the following: 

  • Imposter Scams: Scammers call and pretend to be from institutions like the IRS, Medicare, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Social Security, and other government agencies. They may ask for personal information, typically Social Security or Medicare numbers, in an effort to steal your identity. Or they may tell you that your credit cards, bank accounts, Social Security checks, and other assets are frozen and insist that you send money in order to access them.
  • Grandparent Scams: This is a common scam that specifically targets the elderly and exploits grandparents’ love and concern for their grandchildren. This scam begins with the grandparent getting a call from someone posing as their grandchild. The caller explains, usually frantically, that he or she is in some kind of trouble, perhaps an accident or arrest. They say they need money to get out of jail, get medical help, or pay an attorney.
  • Romance Scams:  Scammers go on social media and dating sites to lure in unsuspecting older adults. They engage with seniors and promise love or friendship, but always end up needing to “borrow” money for a variety of reasons. They are often unavailable to meet in person or repeatedly make plans but fail to show up.
  • Internet/Email Scams: Also known as phishing, scammers use email or text messaging to get you to give them your personal information. They may try to steal your account numbers, passwords, or Social Security numbers to gain access to your email, bank, or other accounts. These attacks are very common and often very successful. 
  • Computer Tech Support Scams: Scammers pretend to be calling with concerns about computer viruses and other threats, but they aren’t really aiming to protect your computer. They want to sell you services you don’t need, obtain your credit card number or other account numbers, or install malware on your computer that lets them see everything on your computer.
  • Blackmail scams: A blackmail scammer tries to scare their victims into sending them money by threatening to distribute private content, which they claim is from your computer or phone, or something that was shared with them over an email, text, or social media. This is usually something that could embarrass you. They often ask you to wire them money, or to send money using a mobile app, a gift card, or cryptocurrency. These scammers are often complete strangers but sometimes they are someone you met online and thought you could trust.

Encourage Older Adults to Talk to Someone They Trust

Seniors should be encouraged to have a trusted family member, friend, or financial advisor to consult with before making any financial decisions, especially when they’re approached with unsolicited offers or requests for personal information. This simple step can provide an additional layer of protection and can often prevent impulsive decisions that lead to financial loss.

Introduce Older Adults to the Elder Abuse Hotline

Ensure that seniors are aware of an elder abuse hotline in your area. This is a resource where they can report suspicious activity or seek assistance if they suspect they’ve been targeted by fraudsters. Having the contact information for such a hotline readily available can provide a sense of security and a clear action plan in the event of attempted fraud. 

For those in New York State (NYS), the NYS Adult Protective Services Helpline can be reached at 1-844-697-3505. In addition, the Weill Cornell Medicine Center for Elder Abuse Solutions provides an Elder Abuse Helpline for Concerned Persons that can be reached at 1-844-746-6905. This is a non-emergency service that provides information and support to family members, friends, and neighbors who are concerned about elder abuse. Supportive counseling, guidance, referrals and more are provided from a caring team of professionals with many years of experience in the elder justice field.

Add Extra Security to Older Adults’ Accounts

Advocate for seniors to implement additional security measures for their financial and online accounts. This can include setting up two-factor authentication, using complex and unique passwords for each account, and regularly monitoring accounts for any signs of unauthorized activity. Many financial institutions offer services specifically designed to protect older adults from fraud, such as alerts for suspicious transactions.

Ensure Older Adults Do Not Answer Calls From Numbers They Don’t Recognize

A significant number of scams begin with a simple phone call. Advise seniors to let calls from unknown numbers go to voicemail. The call can be returned if needed. Scammers often use high-pressure tactics over the phone to extract personal information or financial details. If a call is important, the caller will leave a message, and the legitimacy of the request can be verified before any information is shared.

If You or a Loved One Has Fallen Victim to a Scam, We Can Help

Despite all precautions, if you or a loved one falls victim to a scam, it’s important to act swiftly. Contacting a New York Senior Scams and Financial Fraud attorney with comprehensive knowledge and experience will help you effectively navigate the complexities of the legal system to recover what was lost. At Cona Elder Law, our experienced elder law litigators are committed to aggressively pursuing the return of property on behalf of our clients and fighting for the justice our clients deserve. Contact us today to learn more. 

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