Scam Prevention for Older Adults

Scam Prevention for Older Adults

Experiencing fraud, identity theft, or scams can be devastating to older adults. And as scams continuously grow and evolve in the modern day, older adults are often increasingly vulnerable to newer forms. In 2024, the Federal Trade Commission reported that as compared to people in their 30s who lose an average of $415 per scam, people 80 years and older lose an average of $1,360 per scam – more than three times the amount.

If you’re an older adult or caring for one, the prospect of fraud and scams may seem frightening. But by understanding the most popular types of scams, you can help protect yourself and your loved ones from being defrauded. Let’s explore three of the most common scams targeting older adults, and the steps you can take to prevent them. 

Though AI-powered tools are powerful, they can be dangerous in the hands of bad actors. Using pictures available online, scammers can now create AI-generated pictures of other people, called deepfakes. With a bit of research, scammers can even impersonate loved ones’ voices and have real-time conversations with older adults to manipulate them into parting with their money, a tool known as a voice clone.

Here are a few common AI-powered impersonations to look out for:

  • A loved one who has been arrested or in an accident and needs money immediately
  • A celebrity or community leader looking for donations
  • Someone from an online dating service who reminds you of a former spouse or partner and requests money or personal financial information

A common trend is that the scammer will usually try to obtain money as quickly as possible, whether by asking for your bank information or by sending an agent to pick up cash in person. Though you may be panicking over a potential family emergency or want to help someone as soon as possible, be sure to always take a moment to pause, think, and reach out to other trusted people to confirm information before reaching for your wallet. Taking a moment to call your loved one at their proper phone number could reveal that they’re perfectly fine.

Additionally, you might consider setting up “codewords” between your family members to verify their identity during phone calls. Even if a caller uses a voice clone to impersonate a loved one, they wouldn’t know your secret password, allowing you to stop a scam call in its tracks.

Medicare is an important federal program that provides health insurance to millions of Americans. However, it’s also a potential avenue for scammers to steal your personal information, or deceive you with falsely advertised medical supplies.

In a Medicare scam, the caller may use a phone spoofer to present themselves using a legitimate Medicare phone number, and claim you need to:

  • Sign up for a new insurance plan
  • Purchase new medical equipment
  • Replace your Medicare card

During the course of the phone call, the scammer will then ask for your Medicare account number and a variety of other personal information, which they can then use to commit identity fraud or drain your bank account.

You can protect yourself from Medicare-based scams by never giving your personal information to people who call you first, no matter who they claim to be. Remember – Medicare will never call you to ask for your personal information, and will not cancel service without any prior warning.

Older adults are more likely than younger generations to use physical checks to pay bills or give donations. And while check forgery is as old as checks themselves, new digital tools have given rise to enhanced forms of counterfeiting.

In check cooking, scammers use photo editing software to manipulate a photo of a physical check to create a new check with a different check number, recipient, and amount. The new counterfeit check will have all the watermarks of a real check, allowing scammers to write checks in the victim’s name.

Luckily, scammers still need a photo of a real check to create a forgery. To prevent check cooking scams, reduce the opportunities for scammers to steal a check by having your checks delivered the post office instead of your mailbox. Alternatively, consider setting up online payments for utility bills or donations.

In today’s rapidly changing world, it’s unrealistic to expect older adults to keep on top of every emerging scam. That’s why it the responsibility often rests on family, friends, and the community to remain vigilant against scams targeting older adults and educate them on how to protect themselves. This Older Americans Month, we encourage you to take these tips we’ve presented to heart and to stay in touch with the older adults in your life to ensure they’re safe. With protection powered by connection, we can make a safer community and society for older adults.

To learn more about older adult scam prevention or to report a scam, contact the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.