Top Senior Scams and How to Prevent Them

older man on the phone looking at bank card

Dear Amanda and Lisa:

My mother lives on her own in an older home just outside Columbus. My brother and I both live a few hours away so we can’t be there as often as we would like.

Since our father passed away a few months ago, our mom seems to be a constant target for scams. Literally from the day of my dad’s funeral, it has been one thing after another. So far either my brother or I have been able to intervene and keep Mom safe. But we both worry that something might get past us when we aren’t around.

Do you have any ideas on what we should know and steps we can take to minimize the risk our mom will fall victim to a scam?


5 Ways to Prevent a Senior from Falling Victim to a Scam

Dear Marcy,

It’s interesting that you mention the scam attempts started the day of your father’s funeral. Unfortunately, criminals use the obituaries in local newspapers to identify potential targets. They recognize that the loss of a spouse often makes an older adult more vulnerable.

In fact, AARP estimates that as many as 20% of older adults have fallen victim to a scam. Most researchers believe that number is actually on the low side. Because they are embarrassed to admit they fell for a scam, seniors don’t always report these crimes to authorities

But there are steps you can take to decrease the risk your mom will become a victim including:

  • Do Not Call Registry: Sign her up for the “Do Not Call Registry.” Many scams against seniors begin with a phone call, and scammers are less likely to call older adults who are on the list.
  • Door-to-Door Scams: Families often find that as the mercury rises in the summer, so too do the number of scams against seniors. Many are tied to home improvements. Scammers identify driveways that need repair or older roofs that need replacing, for example, and pressure seniors with special “one day only deals.” Warn your mom that behavior like this is a red flag she isn’t talking with a legitimate home improvement company.
  • Check Them Out: Never allow anyone to provide care or services for your mom until you do some checking on them. If you are hiring an in-home care provider, conduct both a state and a federal background check. If you are hiring a contractor, use sites like Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau to see what others have to say.
  • Stay Informed: Another helpful resource for seniors in the Columbus area is the Franklin County Sherriff’s department. Their TRIAD/SALT program is designed to help older adults in the area and law enforcement work together to prevent crimes targeting seniors.

Thanks for writing to us, Marcy! It was a good reminder for us to share this information with readers during one of the busiest months of the year for scams targeting seniors.

Amanda and Lisa