Special Report

Targeting the Elderly: Unveiling the Alarming Rise of Scams Aimed at Your Grandparents

September 26, 2023 by Anastasiia Ponomarova in Special Report  
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A Disturbing 2022 Trend Continues to Skyrocket in 2023

In an increasingly digital age, the elderly population has become a prime target for fraudsters and scammers. Financial scams aimed at older adults have skyrocketed, resulting in significant financial losses and emotional distress. This article sheds light on the prevailing issue of targeting the elderly, exploring the various types of fraud, their impact on victims, and preventive measures that can be taken.

Understanding the Scope of the Problem

As the baby boomer generation ages, they become an attractive target for fraudsters due to their perceived wealth and vulnerability. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), there were 92,371 older victims of fraud in 2021, resulting in staggering losses of $1.7 billion. This represents a 74% increase in losses compared to the previous year. The alarming rise of fraud targeting the elderly necessitates a closer examination of the tactics employed by scammers.

Motivations Behind Targeting Older Adults

Fraudsters target older adults for several reasons. The belief that this population possesses substantial financial resources makes them an appealing target. Furthermore, scammers view financial crimes against older adults as low-risk, as they often go unreported or are difficult to prosecute. This perception of low risk combined with the potential for significant financial gain makes targeting the elderly an attractive proposition for fraudsters.

Common Types of Fraud Targeting Older Adults

Government Impersonation Scams: Scammers call unsuspecting older adults, posing as representatives from government agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Social Security Administration, or Medicare. They use intimidation tactics, claiming the victim owes unpaid taxes or that their benefits will be cut off unless they provide personal information. These scams can result in identity theft and financial losses.

Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams: Scammers inform older adults that they have won a lottery or prize but require upfront payment for taxes or processing fees. Victims may be convinced to send large sums of money, only to realize that there is no actual prize.

Robocalls and Phone Scams: Robocalls employ automated technology to target older adults with various scams, including warranty expirations, fake charities, and impending lawsuits. Scammers may use the infamous “Can you hear me?” call to record the victim’s voice, which can be used for unauthorized charges.

Computer Tech Support Scams: Scammers exploit older adults’ lack of technical knowledge by displaying pop-up messages or blank screens claiming their devices are damaged. They then request remote access or demand payment for repairs, leading to financial losses and compromised personal information.

The Grandparent Scam: Fraudsters impersonate a grandchild or authority figure and request money for urgent financial problems, exploiting the trust and compassion of older adults.

The Devastating Impact on Victims

Financial scams targeting older adults can have devastating consequences. Victims often suffer significant financial losses, leading to depleted savings, increased debt, and financial insecurity. The emotional toll is equally profound, as victims may experience feelings of shame, embarrassment, and betrayal. Moreover, the loss of trust in financial institutions and authority figures can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s well-being.

Preventive Measures and Protective Strategies

To combat the rising tide of fraud targeting the elderly, individuals and communities must take proactive measures to protect themselves and their loved ones. Awareness and education play a crucial role in preventing financial scams.

Recognizing Red Flags and Warning Signs

Educating older adults about common scam tactics and warning signs is essential. Some red flags to watch out for include unsolicited phone calls or emails requesting personal or financial information, demands for immediate payment, and offers that seem too good to be true. Encouraging skepticism and critical thinking can empower older adults to identify potential scams.

Strengthening Digital Literacy

As scams increasingly occur online, it is crucial for older adults to develop digital literacy skills. Understanding the basics of internet safety, such as recognizing phishing emails, creating strong passwords, and avoiding suspicious websites, can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to online scams.

Building a Supportive Community

Establishing a supportive community that looks out for the well-being of older adults is vital. This can involve regular check-ins, providing resources on scam prevention, and fostering open communication about financial matters. Encouraging older adults to seek advice from trusted family members, friends, or financial professionals before making any significant financial decisions can provide an additional layer of protection.

Reporting Fraudulent Activity

Encouraging the reporting of fraudulent activity is essential for combatting fraud and bringing scammers to justice. Older adults should be educated on how and where to report scams, such as contacting local law enforcement, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Reporting scams not only helps protect individuals but also allows authorities to gather data and track trends to prevent future fraud.

Government and Law Enforcement Efforts

Recognizing the severity of the issue, government agencies and law enforcement have taken steps to combat fraud targeting the elderly. The Department of Justice (DOJ), along with other agencies, has launched initiatives and task forces focused on prosecuting fraudsters and raising awareness about these crimes.

Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force

The DOJ has expanded the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force to protect older Americans from financial abuse. This multi-agency collaboration aims to investigate and prosecute fraudsters operating both domestically and internationally.

Legislation and Policy Changes

Governments have implemented legislation and policy changes to address the issue of fraud against the elderly. These measures aim to enhance consumer protections, increase penalties for perpetrators, and strengthen regulations surrounding financial transactions.

Public Awareness Campaigns

Government agencies, non-profit organizations, and financial institutions have launched public awareness campaigns to educate the public about financial scams targeting older adults. These campaigns provide information on common scams, prevention strategies, and resources for reporting fraudulent activity.


The alarming rise of fraud and scams targeting the elderly demands immediate attention. As the elderly population continues to grow, it is crucial to prioritize education, prevention, and support for older adults. By raising awareness, strengthening digital literacy, and fostering supportive communities, we can protect our seniors from falling victim to financial scams. Government agencies, law enforcement, and individuals must work together to combat fraud and ensure the financial security and well-being of our elderly population.

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