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Avoiding Scams that prey on the Elderly

Many of us would consider ourselves having “been around the block” a few times in our lives. In other words, acquiring common sense and some “street smarts” is an important part of growing up and growing older. “Up high, down low, TOO SLOW!” as we embarrass ourselves and miss the high-five is a lesson that we quickly learn and learn how to avoid. But besides playground pranks or jokes between friends, learning how to recognize and avoid malicious scams is an important part of adulthood. For Elder persons, perhaps not as up to date with new technology and the digital age of social media, some of these scams can be traumatizing and embarrassing to fall victim to. Below are a few common scams that prey on the Elderly and how to recognize and avoid them.

  • “Hi Grandma/Grandpa"

A scammer will call an older person and pretend to be the persons grandson or granddaughter. Starting off the conversation with a playful “You do know who this is?” can trick people into guessing the name of their actual grandchild. Once armed with the name, the scammer can then entice the person to send money through an untraceable payment system like Western Union for a made-up problem. The worst part of this scam is that it preys on people’s love for their family members and desire to help them. One of the best ways to avoid this scam is to watch out for unfamiliar phone numbers and to call another family member before sending any money to anyone!

  • Fake Lottery Winnings

A scammer will contact an older person and tell them they have won a sweepstakes or a lottery and they should receive a check soon. Even if the victim is suspicious, a check actually does arrive, and the victim is asked to deposit it. The check deposits instantly and the funds are available in the victim’s bank account, while the scammer asks the victim to pay some “minor administrative fees” to receive the next portion of their winnings. The victim then sends the money (less than the amount on the check) to the scammer. The scammer disappears and a few days later the bank marks the check as fraudulent and reverses the deposit, making the victim responsible. Remember: “if it sounds too good to be true… it probably is.” Don’t trust anyone who sends you money by check and then asks you to send some back by another method.

  • Computer Virus/Fake Microsoft Support

As elder persons did not grow up with computers, they can be unfamiliar with how they work and especially how the internet works. One very common scam is when a scammer calls or emails someone telling them they have a severe virus on their computer. By pressing with a sense of urgency, scammers can often convince people to give them access to their computer of their internet, allowing them free reign to get any of the information stored on it, including bank information and other sensitive info. A good way to avoid this scam is by ignoring any sort of pop-up or notification or email that tells you your computer has an issue and you NEED to contact them right away. Or just ask your computer geek younger relatives to help!

These are not the only scams that prey on elder people and their families however, as new and innovative methods of stealing are always being invented. It’s important to stay vigilant!

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Senior Steps is a full-service geriatric care management company offering top-quality, personalized care to elderly clients on Boston’s South Shore. We offer free consultations, so call us today at 617-405-8796 or e-mail us at if you would like to chat about how we can help you or an elderly loved one with medical, financial, or legal advocacy, or activities of daily living.

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