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Senior Scams Spike During the Holidays

We are fortunate to have a new contribution from a good friend and colleague, Julie Northcutt of  Julie offers a caution in this contribution about the scams that seek to prey on older adults, so please give her warning a read… 

    “Holidays are a magical time, but unfortunately they are also a time when law enforcement sees a spike in online and telemarketing fraud, especially directed against the elderly. According to the Federal Trade Commission, nearly 25 million Americans are victims of consumer fraud each year. Senior citizens continue to be a rapidly increasing segment of the population. Why are seniors especially vulnerable? Seniors are seen as easy marks with “nest eggs” that make them attractive to con artists. According to the F.B.I., “people who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits, knowing that it is difficult or impossible for these individuals to say “no” or just hang up the telephone.” In addition, because the elderly are sometimes socially isolated, the elder will stay on the line just to converse with another human being. 

“Silver Surfers” are the fastest growing group of Americans using computers, recent studies have shown, using email as an essential way to keep in touch with loved ones. This makes them especially vulnerable to illegitimate “charity” organizations looking for donations, lottery scams and bogus product offers. Elderly victims are less likely to report the fraud because they don’t know who to report to or they are embarrassed to admit they have been scammed. One of the more popular schemes this season is the “grandparent scam.” In this scenario, someone calls a senior and poses as their grandchild or a friend of the grandchild. The caller claims that the grandchild has been in an accident or is in trouble and needs the grandparent to wire them money. The grandparent is also urged not to tell anyone. Once the money is sent, it is unlikely it can ever be recovered. 

What is a senior to do if they suspect fraud? Seniors are urged not to reply to any emails offering “free” medical equipment, miracle cures, or lottery prizes that require up-front payment for processing. Never give out sensitive information over email or phone, including social security numbers and bank information. Verify charity information before donating. In the case of the “grandparent scam,” seniors are urged to call their grandchildren to see if they are really in trouble. Everyone is vulnerable to deceptions during the holiday season. None more so, it seems, then our senior population. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a scam or fraud, report it to your local Department on Aging. You may help prevent others from becoming victims as well.”

Julie Northcutt is founder and president of  We encourage you to visit her website.

Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families throughout metropolitan Chicago.  Please email your questions to Charlotte Bishop.


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