Elder Fraud

What It Is
Broadly defined, financial elder abuse is when someone illegally or improperly uses a vulnerable senior's money or other property for personal gain. Senior citizens are targets for specific types of fraud scams and schemes.

How It Happens
Grandparent Scam
You receive a call from someone pretending to be your grandchild or a lawyer representing them. The call may be frantic or noisy and you blurt out your grandchild's name. The "grandchild" may claim that they are in trouble in jail, have been involved in a car accident, and / or are in a foreign country. They will tell you that they need money immediately. They may also beg you not to tell their parents.

They will ask you to send money via wire transfer by Western Union or Moneygram. You aren't calling your children because of the request for secrecy. Any money you send will not be recovered. You will later talk to your grandchild and find out it was a scam and your money is gone.

Prize, Lottery & Sweepstakes Scams
You receive a call or a letter stating you won! This is the hook - a test to see if you will respond. When you do, you will be told you need to pay fees or taxes to hold or transfer your "winnings." You will be told to send a wire transfer through Moneygram or Western Union. The amount may not be large, but it will be asked of you repeatedly. The caller will be convincing and may have an accent. Any money you wire may be picked up anywhere by the suspect, no matter where you think it is going. There is no prize, no winnings, and your money will not be recovered.

How to Avoid It
Grandparent Scam
  • If you get a call like this, ask the "grandchild" or "attorney" - what is your mother's name, or your dog's name, or your birthdate? The grandchild would surely know the answer.
  • Never wire money anywhere without a security question that only the receiver would know.
  • Hang up and call your grandchild or their parents.
Prize, Lottery & Sweepstakes Scams
  • Do not fill out sweepstakes cards.
  • Never wire money to someone you don't know.
  • When in doubt, call the police and ask!
Additionally, home improvement scams and burglaries are often targeted at elderly victims who may be on a fixed income and who scammers will hope are afraid to say no, or embarrassed to question or report a fraud when it does happen.

Sweetheart Swindles may also be targeted against elderly persons, and after they have given money to their new sweetheart or friend, that person disappears.