How to Protect Yourself Against Scams

Posted by Annie Keough on October 17, 2022


According to the FBI, there were 92,371 seniors affected by fraud in 2021, causing $1.7 billion in losses. As financial scams increase, it is important for seniors to know how to spot a scam and how to protect themselves against them.

Online scammers target older adults because they’re believed to have the most money and are the most vulnerable to online and telephone attacks.

How to identify a scam

Knowing the warning signs of a scam is key to avoiding them. There are a few common Internet scams that specifically target seniors, including:

  •      Malware emails. When someone sends you an email containing malware, it will typically ask you to download something or will start a download automatically when you open the email. If this happens, delete the download immediately to avoid hackers gaining access to personal information on your computer.
  •      Winning lottery. These scams usually contain a large, colorful pop-up ad saying that you’ve won a certain amount of money or helped the website reach a certain number of views. This scam is used to get you to provide account information so they can “send” you the money you’ve won.
  •      Grandparent scam. When a scammer either imitates someone’s grandchild or says they’re in danger to get the grandparent to pay them money. They will typically ask the grandparent to cover a hospital bill, bail them out of jail, or pay for a plane ticket back from a foreign country.
  •      Prescription drugs. Some con artists will advertise cheaper and more effective alternatives to the prescription drugs you are currently taking. These scams are very dangerous as they can create physical harm if the drugs are counterfeit.

According to the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging for Avoiding Scams, there are a few warning signs you can generally keep in mind to identify a scam. Con artists will:

  1. Coerce you into making quick decisions and sometimes threaten you
  2. Use fake phone numbers to disguise their real ones
  3. Often pretend to be government officials, like the IRS
  4. Attempt to make you provide personal information over the phone (Social Security number, account numbers)

See the IRS’s official website detailing ways to spot a fake IRS phone call here.

How to protect yourself in the future

Seniors and other people who want to protect themselves against scams in the future need to be aware of online financial scams and how they can disguise themselves. Know the warning signs of potential online or telephone scams and keep in mind that if a certain deal looks too good to be true, it probably is

Always check with a family member, friend, or healthcare provider before giving your personal information away over the phone or online. 


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