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Scammers are continually devising new sweepstakes, gift card, medication, and romance schemes to trick seniors out of money or into sharing sensitive information. The Government Accountability Office estimates that older Americans lose $2.9 billion through financial fraud each year. And those are just the scams that get reported. Here, experts offer some critical steps you can take to help keep vulnerable older adults from being cheated out of their savings.

Commiserate, Don’t Condescend.

Acknowledging that scams happen can help make the conversation with your loved one productive, not condescending. Sharing knowledge rather than lecturing is best. Simply letting your parent know you just read an article about an email scam can open the door for helping them set up their email box so their contact list is a high priority.

Use Technology to Your Advantage.

To set barriers of protection, add contacts in your loved one’s phone for all the people they might be expecting phone calls from—friends, relatives, doctors, or local pharmacy. Add photos of their contacts so when that person calls, a picture of them comes up. Depending on their phone settings, opt for all unknown numbers go directly to voicemail.
Changing passwords regularly and using “strong” passwords with special characters are two great ways to protect your loved one as well.

Make a Script.

Phone scammers rely on our innate sense of courtesy and the element of surprise. An “urgent” car warranty message or supposed IRS bill can keep seniors listening instead of getting off the phone. One director of fraud with AARP suggests having a script with simple, but authoritative, statements to keep by their phone that they can reference during such calls. Statements such as, “I don’t do business over the phone,” or ”I have to check this out first with my son who is a police officer,” are all good places to start, Amy Nofzinger, director of fraud victim support for the AARP, says.

Beware of Sudden Changes.

The more insidious form of scams for older adults are interpersonal. “Relationships of undue influence” are schemes that may drain the victim’s life savings.
Be aware if somebody comes into your loved one’s life, in what looks like a legitimate relationship (maybe even romantic) and ends up in the will or on joint bank accounts. You should be concerned of “undue influence” if your loved one suddenly makes decisions that are out of character, bills are late, is ungroomed, and seems less in control of their own life.

Check In.

The best way to prevent these scams is to check in regularly. Have conversations about email and phone scams, which evolve all the time. Share resources like the AARP scam hotline.
Connect with your loved one and meet the people in their life. If you’re far away, figure out a system to video chat so you can see what they look like.

Contact Their Bank or Authorities.

If your loved one got scammed, report the scam immediately by calling 911 and contacting their bank. Make sure to keep that phone number to aide in the investigation. You can also report suspicious online activity to the FBI at within 36 hours of the scam. Depending on your situation, your loved one may be able to be reimbursed.

Bottom Line.

Visiting your loved one, being present, calling, inserting yourself into their life as a protective barrier, or being a companion to offset loneliness are good ideas.
Learning common scams, and knowing when to contact the police, is one of the best ways to protect your aging loved one from becoming a victim of fraud.


Thank you Annaliese Griffin at and for this content!