As we approach the end of tax season and people start to receive their state and federal refunds, we feel it’s important to revisit fraud security precautions for seniors. The truth is scammers often disproportionately target elderly people with fixed incomes. This type of fraud is classified as elder fraud and is rapidly growing in the United States. Reported losses have more than doubled between 2019 to 2021, when they reached almost $1.7 billion, according to the annual Elder Fraud Report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). (Daley 2022)

But Why Are Seniors at Higher Risk for Fraud?

According to the Fraud Against Seniors web resource provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), seniors are more likely to be targeted because:

  • They are likely to have a “nest egg” or money set aside for retirement
  • They own their own home, likely paid off
  • They have excellent credit
  • People raised between the 1930s and 1950s were raised to be polite and trusting and con artists work to exploit these traits
  • Older Americans are less likely to report fraud because they don’t know how or are too ashamed, or in some cases, may not be aware they’ve been defrauded.
  • Seniors are also shown to be more interested in and susceptible to products promising increased cognitive function, virility, physical conditioning, and anti-cancer properties, which are easy covers for scams.
Senior woman talking on phone while reading off credit card

Telemarketing Scams Specifically Target Seniors

The FBI advises that anyone over the age 60—especially older women living alone—are sought-after targets of fraudulent companies or individuals who sell bogus products and services by telephone. Telemarketing scams often involve offers of free prizes, low-cost vitamins and health care products, and inexpensive vacations. (Fraud Against Seniors)

How to Screen for Potential Scams

Every year, the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging produces an annual Fraud Book that features the top 10 scams reported to their hotline to keep seniors informed. You can view the latest Fraud Book here.

Outside of keeping up on the latest fraud reports, the committee offers several pointers to detect a scam. According to the Senate Aging Committee, here are 6 ways you or an aging loved one can avoid scams:

  1. Con artists will try and force you to make decisions fast and may even threaten you. If you experience any of this type of behavior, disengage from the conversation immediately.
  2. Con artists disguise their real numbers, using fake caller IDs
  3. Con artists sometimes pretend to be the government (e.g. the IRS)
  4. Con artists try to get you to provide them with personal information like your social security number or account numbers. If you are asked to provide this information over the phone or in person, disengage from the conversation and seek advice from a trusted friend or family member before taking further action.
  5. Before giving out your credit card number or money, please ask a friend or family member about it first.
  6. Beware of free travel offers!
Young adult woman talking with her aging parents at kitchen table

What to Do If You Suspect Fraud

If you receive a suspicious call, hang up and please call the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470 or visit

For more information on ways to protect yourself from fraud, check out our article 7 Ways Seniors Can Avoid Scams that includes information on:

  • How to block unsolicited communications
  • Knowing your fraud risks
  • Developing a financial security plan
  • Ways to stay engaged and aware of scams
  • Safeguarding your financial and personal information
  • Taking financial decisions slowly
  • How to ignore surprise wins, gifts, or pleas

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Last Updated April 13, 2023