Easy Steps to Help Protect Against Elder Fraud

Billing Disputes - September 4, 2017
Grandpa holding his young granddaughter outside

Updated May 10, 2024

It’s a sad reality that, as people age, they can become more susceptible to crimes such as scams, identity theft, and other types of fraud. According to the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime, financial exploitation is one of the most common types of threats that plague the elderly in the U.S. If you have parents or grandparents who have reached their golden years, you want them to enjoy this time of life in peace. How can you protect them from the hassle and heartache of elder fraud?

What is elder fraud?

Elder fraud is a crime committed against the elderly by people who want to use these older individuals’ money for their own selfish gains. Since many seniors come to rely on others for financial or physical support, it is easy for a criminal to gain an elder’s trust and abuse that privilege. Technology can also be confusing for older people, meaning they can quickly fall victim to scams via phone or internet. Some companies even convince older people to pay hefty, repetitive subscription fees for their services; this may not be illegal, but it can certainly wreak havoc on an elder’s finances.

Elder fraud can strip a senior of their financial freedom and peace of mind. Let’s look at a brief example:

Gary is retired and lives alone, only needing occasional check-ins from his adult children to ensure that all is well. One day, Gary’s daughter learns that he has been paying lots of money to “tech support” to get his computer fixed. When she looks into the matter, she finds that Gary has been duped by scam messages on his computer, claiming that he must pay up to resolve imaginary tech problems.

What are common elderly scams?

Elder fraud hides behind several different masks. However, many scammers will follow the same basic protocols when they try to deceive your older loved ones. Here are some common scams to look out for:

Sweepstakes or lottery scams

Scammers will call the elderly to joyfully tell them they have won a big prize. But they request their victim to send payment before they can receive their reward.

Government scams

The scammer pretends to be the Social Security Administration, the IRS, or another government entity, warning the elder via phone that they must pay money to avoid arrest for a made-up crime or oversight. They may also want to know the elder’s Social Security number and other personal information so they can use it later for their own gain.

Romance scams

If a senior is looking for love online, a scammer can work their way into their heart with love-struck messages and promises. Soon, however, the scammer will request money or gifts, and the deceived elder will probably never lay eyes on the fraudster.

Phone scams

This type of fraud can take only a second to commit. The caller will ask, “Can you hear me?” When the elder replies, “Yes,” the scammer makes a recording of this answer and hangs up. They can then use that confirmation to rack up charges in the older individual’s name. Scammers may also pose as the police or a business, requesting the victim to pay money to avoid lawsuits or hefty fines. Sometimes the phone caller may ask that the aged person pay in gift cards, which can’t be reversed to get money back.

Grandparent scams

The scammer calls the unsuspecting elder and says something like, “Hi Grandpa, do you know who this is?” If the elder responds with a grandchild’s name, the scammer can simply pretend to be that grandchild and ask for money. Scammers can also find family members’ names from social media and call the senior while pretending to be someone specific.

How can you protect yourself from scams?

Whether you’re reading this article to protect yourself or an aging loved one, we’ve got tips to help you stay safe from the scammers who are hunting for vulnerable people’s information.

  • Keep sensitive paperwork and checkbooks locked in a secure location.
  • Keep records of your payments with credit cards and checks.
  • Shred sensitive papers that you don’t need to keep, like unused credit card offers, bank paperwork and more.
  • Don’t give out personal information over the phone unless you made the phone call to an official number.
  • Don’t rush into big purchases, prizes, or other great “deals” that seem too good to be true.
  • Don’t let someone else cajole you into using your money in ways that make you uncomfortable.
  • Be on good terms with your bank and loan officers so they can keep an eye on your finances for you and alert you to suspicious activity.
  • Be careful about who you trust with your sensitive information. Stay wary of newcomers who try to quickly worm their way into your private life.

What to do if you are a victim of fraud

If you find out that you’ve fallen victim to elder fraud, don’t panic. You can contact local police and the Adult Protective Services in your area to alert them about the fraud. You should also quickly inform your financial institutions, healthcare providers, and other important entities that your personal information is compromised, so they know not to authorize transactions in your name. Open up to people you trust who can help you navigate the emotional impact.

What to do if your elderly parent is being scammed

Do you have suspicions that your aging parent is a victim of elder fraud? Here are some steps you can take to establish trust and open lines of communication with your parent:

  • Be watchful for signs of cognitive decline, which can render them more susceptible to fraud.
  • Let them know you are here to support them any way you can.
  • Offer to help them keep track of their paperwork, income, and expenses.
  • Help them set up a system to pay bills automatically.
  • Explain common scams to them so they know what to look out for.
  • If necessary, discuss the option of Power of Attorney where they give you authority over their accounts and finances.

Elder fraud is a real, serious crime that threatens many aging people and can wreak havoc on their families. If it hits you or your loved ones, you may not know what to do next. That’s why LegalShield is here to help. LegalShield provider lawyers can offer personal legal advice to assist with legal questions you may have. Your provider law firm can review a personal legal document starting at up to 15 pages each, make a phone call if necessary, give consultation, and otherwise assist at a discount from their standard hourly rate.

Keep your assets and family protected with our Personal and Family legal plans.

Elder fraud is not the only thing to be aware of when it comes to the seniors in your life. Elder financial exploitation is another serious threat that you want to be educated about.


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