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Conversing with Elderly Relatives About Scam Awareness

by Ethan Kim
5 comments
Elderly Scam Awareness

During the summer, an incident occurred where Daniel Goldstein’s 86-year-old mother received a deceptive email, seemingly from her bank. Alarmed by unfamiliar financial transactions mentioned in the email, she reached out to a contact number provided in it. Unfortunately, this led her to a fraudster who, under the guise of assistance, extracted her bank details and swindled her out of $600.

Recent data reveals a disturbing trend: consumers across various age groups have been defrauded of a staggering $8.8 billion, with senior citizens bearing the brunt of these losses, as per Federal Trade Commission findings.

Protecting elderly family members from such frauds is a priority, yet these conversations can often be delicate and complex.

Genevieve Waterman of the National Council on Aging advises adopting a multigenerational perspective on scams, highlighting that different demographic groups are targeted differently by fraudsters.

Experts have emphasized several key strategies for effectively discussing scam prevention with older adults:

Identifying Common Scams Targeting the Elderly

Awareness of prevalent scams aimed at seniors is crucial. Kathy Stokes from AARP points out two frequent ones: the “grandparent” scam and romance scams. The former involves impersonators who call elderly individuals, posing as their grandchildren in distress and seeking financial aid. The FTC suggests verifying such claims with other family members before acting. Romance scams, as reported by the FTC, have led to losses of about $1.3 billion in 2022. These typically start on social media and transition to private messaging platforms, culminating in requests for financial help under false pretenses.

Other prevalent scams include investment frauds, tech support cons, and impersonation schemes. Detailed information about these can be found on the FTC’s website.

Regular Discussions on Scam Awareness

Frequent conversations about scams can significantly enhance awareness and prevention. Waterman recommends making this a routine topic in family discussions. Goldstein’s experience with his tech-savvy mother, who fell prey to a scam she hadn’t encountered before, underscores the need for continuous dialogue. Scammers often employ urgency to cloud judgment, a critical point to emphasize in these discussions.

Approach with Information, Not Authority

When discussing scams with older relatives, it’s more effective to adopt an informative stance rather than an authoritative one. Stokes suggests engaging in these conversations by sharing knowledge and asking open-ended questions to facilitate a two-way dialogue.

Empathy in the Event of Scam Victimization

If an elder falls victim to a scam, it’s vital to approach the situation empathetically. Stokes emphasizes understanding the sophisticated nature of these scams and treating the victims with compassion and understanding, instead of assigning blame.

Preparing a Response Plan for Potential Scams

Goldstein reflects on his mother’s experience, noting the importance of having a pre-established plan for suspicious situations. However, he also acknowledges the challenges older adults face in adapting to the digital world, further exacerbated by the pandemic.

The AARP’s Fraud Watch Network Helpline provides guidance and emotional support for potential or actual scam victims.

Educating on Reporting Scams

Educating family members on how to report scams, such as using the FTC’s reporting website, is crucial in the fight against these fraudulent activities.


This report is brought to you with the support of the Charles Schwab Foundation, which is dedicated to enhancing financial literacy through educational reporting. The foundation operates independently from Charles Schwab and Co. Inc., with the AP maintaining full journalistic responsibility for this content.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Elderly Scam Awareness

What are the most common scams targeting older people?

The most common scams targeting older individuals include the “grandparent” scam, where scammers pose as a grandchild in need of urgent financial help, and romance scams, where fraudsters feign romantic interest to swindle money, often through social media platforms.

How can we effectively discuss scam awareness with elderly family members?

Effective discussion involves regular, empathetic conversations about the various types of scams. It’s important to share knowledge in an informative manner rather than imposing views, and to make these discussions a routine part of family conversations.

What should you do if an elderly family member falls victim to a scam?

If an elderly family member falls victim to a scam, approach the situation with empathy and understanding. Acknowledge that they have been the victim of a crime by sophisticated scammers and avoid blaming them for the incident.

Why is it important to have regular conversations about scams with older adults?

Regular conversations about scams with older adults are crucial because they raise awareness, update them on new scamming methods, and reinforce the importance of vigilance. These discussions also help in establishing trust and open communication channels for future suspicious scenarios.

How can older adults report a scam if they encounter one?

Older adults can report a scam by visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website. Additionally, organizations like the AARP’s Fraud Watch Network Helpline offer guidance and support for reporting scams and dealing with the emotional aftermath of fraud.

More about Elderly Scam Awareness

  • Federal Trade Commission
  • AARP Fraud Prevention
  • National Council on Aging
  • Charles Schwab Foundation
  • AARP’s Fraud Watch Network Helpline

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5 comments

SarahConnor November 11, 2023 - 2:46 am

Helpful info! I’m sharing this with my parents. It’s scary how convincing these scammers can be.

Reply
TomGreen99 November 11, 2023 - 12:08 pm

decent write-up, but some parts felt repetitive. Also, maybe add more on how tech advancements are making scams more sophisticated?

Reply
Ella_Rose November 11, 2023 - 2:54 pm

This is such an eye opener, I had no idea scams were so common for older people. The stats are alarming!

Reply
Jenny Smith November 11, 2023 - 7:22 pm

Really important topic glad to see it being discussed! My grandma almost fell for a scam last year, so it’s vital to talk about these things.

Reply
MarkusB November 11, 2023 - 10:32 pm

good article, but could use more on the psychological aspect? like why elderly are more susceptible to these scams…

Reply

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