Across the nation, many individuals are falling victim to scams ­­­­­— dishonest schemes designed to deceive you out of your money. In fact, according to a survey by True Link Financial, older adults alone are defrauded about $12.76 billion annually (Kita, 2016). Older adults are especially targeted by scammers as they are most likely to have a “nest egg, to own [a] home, and/or have excellent credit.” On average, more likely to be “enticed by bargains and are comfortable moving larger amounts of money” (Kita, 2016). Another factor that places a larger target on older adults is that they are less likely to report a scam as they either do not know who to report to or how to deal with the embarrassment and/or shame that comes with being victimized (Anon, 2016a).

Types of Scams and How to Identify Them

There are a multitude of scams that criminals use to deceive individuals. Despite the many types of specific scams, the bulk of them will fall into one of three mediums: telephone scams, email scams, or in-person scams.

Telephone Scams

  • A dire scenario which may require immediate action of money transfer, or fear tactics to force you to send money over.
    • Example: Threats of going to jail, you or a loved one going to jail, or other forms of blackmail may be made against you (Pritchard, 2019).
  • Asking you to wire money. This is because there is no way to reverse a wire transfer and money received via wire can be withdrawn almost immediately (Pritchard, 2019).
  • Telemarketing calls promising free or low-priced deals.

Email Scams

  • A “too good to be true scenario” in which you have won a prize or a fortune of sorts—all you need to do is provide some personal information to receive it.
  • Illegitimate in the manner they are presented, such as lacking in credentials or unprofessionally ridden with spelling mistakes and pixelated logos.
  • Uses a knock-off address with random numbers and letters, pretending to be an official address representing some person or company.
  • Asks you to click a link embedded into the e-mail that asks you to log into your account or to verify your password. It is always best to manually type the website’s URL through your web browser and log in from there (Anon, n.d.b.)

In-person Scams

  • People pretend to be a certain type of businessperson or official that shows up at your doorstep to sell a certain product at unbelievably low prices
  • People posing as a good Samaritan who is willing to help you with miscellaneous chores around the house such as handiwork, housekeeping services or similar caregiving services.

For more information on types of scams going around, please visit:

How Do Scammers Find Me?

Scammers can find contacts for just about anyone in the country in multiple ways. They can:

  • Buy your phone numbers from companies that sell data akin to how telemarketers find your number
  • Obtain from surveys you willingly write your information on for things such as giveaways or sweepstakes
  • If you have already been a victim of fraud, these scammers put you on a “list” of those who are extra vulnerable to falling for scams so that you can be hit with another type of scam which promises to help you get your money back (Kita, 2016).

These are not the only ways that scammers get a hold of your information, but they give you an idea of how widespread their target range is. Scammers are nefarious and will stop at no costs to find their next victims. Knowing this, it is important to not take the blame personally if you are targeted for scams — it can happen to anyone.

How to Know if You Are Being Scammed

Here are some signs to look out for:

  • You are requested to send a wire transfer, concealed cash payment, or other complicated means of shipping of large sums of money.
  • You are being rushed by an individual to send money or personal information immediately in order to make you act hastily without asking a friend or family member for their advice.
  • You are requested to send additional sums of money to an individual after you have already sent them an initial amount of money.
  • You are asked to verify your personal information online by clicking a link that is embedded into an e-mail.
  • You are being isolated by your close family and friends by an individual who is new to your life, such as a new friend or a new caregiver.
  • Be aware of what is known as “grooming,” when a scammer tries to build a trusting relationship with their target through regular contact. Examples of this may be when a scammer is trying to befriend or even become a fake romantic interest of the target. Grooming may include a period of isolating the target from their friends and family after successful establishment as well (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, n.d.).
  • You are asked to purchase gift cards and send the gift card number, code, or serial number.
  • Scammers like to take advantage of current events, so be especially aware during natural disasters, census years, and global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on COVID-19 scams, read the article here.

For more information on signs of scamming and types of scams, please visit:

What to Do if You Have Been Scammed

Legal Support

  • File a police report immediately after discovering you have been scammed. This is important as your bank or credit card companies may also want a copy of the police report (O’Donnell, 2019).
  • Save your money and credit score by filing a Fraud Victim Statement/Extended Fraud Alert with Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Doing this adds a note to your credit file stating that you have been a victim of fraud, and that if businesses or individuals are trying to inquire about your credit that they should call you on a phone number you personally provided when filing the alert (O’Donnell, 2019).
    • You can also ask these credit bureaus to place a “security freeze” on your credit reports, stopping scammers from using your identity to open accounts (O’Donnell, 2019).
  • File a complaint with the FTC Complaint Assistant to help the FTC stay up-to-date on scamming patterns.
  • Register your number with the National Do Not Call Registry to opt your phone lines out of receiving telemarketing calls.
  • According to the FTC, if you have been signed up with the National Registry for more than 31 days and you receive an unwanted call, you may report it to the FTC via the Complaint Assistant. If you continue to get unsolicited calls, speak with your telephone provider. They may agree to change your number for free (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, n.d.).
  • If you have provided the scammer with a home address or any other physical addresses, speak with local police (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, n.d.).
  • If you or a loved one is living in a senior community, report to Adult Protective Services in addition to the police.
  • If you or a loved one is currently living in a facility, report to your county’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman. To find your Long-Term Care Ombudsman, please click here.

Financial Support

  • If you notice unauthorized use of your payment cards, contact your bank or card company directly. Always call the number on the back of your card or statement — not on e-mails — to be sure you are calling legitimate numbers. Freeze any accounts and discuss how to protect your information (O’Donnell, 2019).
  • Stop making payments to individuals. Scammers also target individuals that have been recently victimized by a scam in the hopes of robbing you of more money — do not pay individuals to help you with your fraud (Anon, n.d.b.).
  • Follow this recovery checklist for victims of investment fraud by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority

Emotional Support

  • Remember that scammers are always trying to update their schemes to make them as effective as possible — falling for a scam can happen to anyone (O’Donnell, 2019).
    • Individuals who have fallen victim to scams may feel embarrassed and not want to tell their loved ones about their problems. This emotional distress may put them at risk of becoming socially isolated through withdrawal and a slew of other negative emotions. It is best to remain patient and supportive of your loved ones, and do not be invasive
      (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, n.d.).
    • Remember that your feelings are important and should be expressed. Talk to someone you trust about how you feel and what you are experiencing — especially if you feel overwhelmed
    • Allow yourself to feel grief, but do not let it overtake you
    • Spend time with others you care about
    • Make daily decisions, which will help to bring back a feeling of control over your life (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2016).
    • Block the scammer from all methods of communication to prevent yourself from being any more susceptible.
    • Contact a counselling or support service.

Tips to Prevent Future Scams

For Yourself

  1. Never give your SSN, credit card information, or other personal information to others.
  2. Be skeptical of “too good to be true” offers.
  3. Do not open emails you are unfamiliar with.
    • More importantly, do not reply to such emails or click on any attachments.
  4. If you own a cellphone, do not answer unknown numbers. People who know you are more likely to leave a voicemail. To be safe, block unknown numbers or create a contact for them labeled as “SPAM” to remind yourself not to answer.
    • Alternatively, check with your cell service provider if they provide any services that check or prevent scam callers.
    • Scammers now have the technology to change their caller ID. Although caller ID is a useful feature for identifying incoming calls, do not blindly trust it and approach calls with caution.
  5. Never make an “on-the-spot” decision. If the person says you have to act now, remain calm and do not fall for making an irrational decision.
  6. If a scammer says you have won a “free” prize but only have to pay for taxes, they are in violation of federal law (Anon, 2016b).
  7. Ignore pop-ups or notifications on your computer that state you have a virus or malware that can be fixed by a technician. This “technician” will ask for payment and then install a useless program onto your computer (Anon, n.d.a.).
  8. Do not listen to threats made by strangers.
  9. If the person mentions a company or product, search their name on the Internet to see if people have reported similar experiences and if they have been reported as scams (Anon, 2018).
  10. If you have been victimized by a scam before, beware of follow-up scammers who may offer to help you recover but for a fee (Anon, 2016b).

For additional information on scams and staying up-to-date with recent scams, please visit:

For a resource e-booklet on fraud provided by the U.S. Senate, please visit:


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Anon. (2018). 10 Things You Can Do to Avoid Fraud. Retrieved from:

Anon. (n.d.a.). 3 Tips for Avoiding Scams That Target the Elderly. Retrieved from:

Anon. (n.d.b.). Scammed? Take Action. Retrieved from:

Anon. (2016a). Fraud Against Seniors. Retrieved from:

Anon. (2016b). Telemarketing Fraud. Retrieved from:

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. (n.d.). Help a Family Member. Retrieved from:

Australian Securities & Investments Commission. (2018). What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed. Retrieved from:

Bauer, Brandy. (2019). Scams to Watch Out for in 2019. Retrieved from:

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2016, June). Coping with Crime Victimization. Retrieved from:

O’Donnell, Andy. (2019). Help! I’ve Been Scammed Online. Retrieved from:

Pritchard, Justin. (2019). Here Are Warning Signs of Money Scams to Help You Avoid Online Fraud. Retrieved from: