Top Scams Targeting Seniors: Past, Present, and Future

Clock February 07, 2023


Did you know that tech support fraud is most common among victims over 60?

That’s what reports from the FBI tell us.

Today’s tech scams are far more advanced than ever before. A scammer who is seeking to hack a senior’s information starts by sending a harmless message or email which appears to be from someone they know. For example, it could look like an email from your friend or a text message from the bank.

In addition, scammers prey on seniors by posing as tech support, conversing in pop-up windows on computer screens, or through phone calls. These fraudulent individuals may offer to ‘help’ fix fabricated issues using their technological equipment. Once seniors reveal private and confidential information, scammers use this information to conduct fraud.

What do Statistics Reveal?

In 2021, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a division of the FBI, received nearly fourteen thousand tech support fraud complaints from senior citizens who lost a net worth of $238 million.

Scams targeting seniors are rising at an alarming rate. More than 92,000 victims who were at least 60 years old reported losses of $1.7 billion in 2021, which equates to a 74% increase in losses  compared to the prior year.

Why do Seniors Need to be Careful?

Many older Americans own their own homes or have sufficient savings to support their lifestyles in retirement. According to the FBI, people in this group are the ideal targets for scammers because they are more likely to be wealthy and less likely to report fraud.

Another interesting finding reveals that individuals born between 1930 and 1950 are the prime targets for scammers.

Scammers can use any circumstance for their gain. Unfortunately, most con artists use the IRS, Social Security, and Medicare to steal money and information.

Common Scams that Target Senior Citizens

Let’s look at some of the most common scams that impact seniors. 

Medicare Scams

Medicare scams occur all year long, but these fraudulent activities arise most frequently during the annual open enrollment season (the period to adjust your Medicare drug and health coverage), which begins on October 15 and ends on December 7.

Scammers love to capitalize on the sense of urgency and can threaten seniors, often saying they’ll terminate their coverage unless they take certain steps.

Social Security Scams

Scams involving Social Security are more common than ever. Scammers call seniors and pretend to be someone from the Social Security Administration. One of the things they will ask you to communicate is your social security number or information about a payment. If someone hesitates to provide them with this confidential information, scammers may threaten you and claim to suspend your SSN or revoke your benefits.

Remember that nobody is likely to call you from Social Security. So, the next time someone asks you to provide personal information, hang up immediately.

IRS Stimulus Money Scams

Never expect a call from the IRS regarding your stimulus payments. Scammers frequently falsify information conveyed over caller ID play with caller ID information to make it appear like a government agency is calling you. This practice is called “spoofing,” and it can make it difficult for consumers of any age to recognize such scams.

Prior to contacting you by phone, the IRS will first attempt to contact you via US mail. According to the IRS website, IRS agents will never:

  • Require you to use a specific payment method, like a prepaid debit or gift card, or a wire transfer
  • Require an immediate payment of taxes
  • Threaten to have the recipient of a call arrested for non-payment of taxes

Fake Prescriptions Scam

Fake prescription medications are unlawful and may worsen existing medical issues. Fake prescriptions may have incorrect ingredients or lack an active component. At the same time, they may include the correct elements but in the wrong quantities.

If you are purchasing prescriptions online, always check for a seal of approval or the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS) from the Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

Speak with your doctor or pharmacist if your medication has odd side effects or your health condition doesn’t improve. Only order medications online from suppliers who need a prescription.

If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to speak with your physician.

Gift Card Scams

Giving scammers a gift card’s PIN is the one of the most common ways older Americans report losing money.

Scammers typically ask for gift cards from sources like Google Play and eBay. However, reports indicate that scammers now demand a wide variety of gift cards from senior citizens.

Few if any legitimate organizations will require payment in the form of a gift card. If you encounter a situation like this, pause and ask yourself if this seems like a trustworthy business transaction. If you need a second opinion, ask someone you trust for their input. Genuine business establishments and agencies will almost always be just as happy to receive your business or payment a few hours or days later. It is ok to wait if you feel unsure.

What Will Happen in 2023

Scammers, this year, may use the COVID-19 vaccination to deceive senior citizens. The FBI and the Department of Justice are two government agencies that have compiled a list of COVID-19 vaccination distribution scams. You can guarantee it’s a fraud if someone demands any payment upfront to get the shot. You don’t have to pay out of pocket for the COVID-19 vaccination because Medicare will comprehensively cover the cost.

Final Thoughts

Tech scams are on the rise, and seniors are increasingly the targets of these illicit activities. If you believe you have been the victim of a tech scam, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a helpful list of steps you may wish to take. You can also turn to a trusted family member, friend financial professional, medical professional, or other person or agency you trust to help you determine the best next steps you can take.


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