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Elder Care Scam Calls: How to Protect Your Loved Ones From Fraud

May 29, 2024
Roxanna Guilford-Blake

Scam calls and texts often target vulnerable older adults, exploiting their trust and financial well-being. If you're someone who provides elder care, scam calls are something to help seniors watch out for. They can pose a serious threat to their safety and security.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center reports that in 2023, people ages 60 and older filed 101,068 complaints of fraud that resulted in a total loss of more than $3.4 billion. The average loss per victim was $33,915.

Caregivers and the seniors they care for can become victims, so it helps to know what to look for.

Common Types of Elder Scam Calls Caregivers Should Know

Although the list of different kinds of scam calls continues to grow and evolve, these are some that frequently involve seniors:

  • Romance Scams: People of all ages fall victim to these cons, but scammers are known to target lonely older adults. AARP tells the story of a woman in her 60s who gave a fake suitor $75,000 after exchanging only texts and calls. Even after an FBI intervention, she remained so convinced of the scammer’s sincerity that she gave him more money.
  • Charitable Investments: Certain letters, emails, texts and phone calls claim to support charitable causes but are actually financial scams. Don’t lower your guard just because it says it’s for a charitable cause. It’s a good idea to take the time to verify the organization exists. One way is to check their tax status using the Tax Exempt Organization Search on the IRS website. Even if a recognizable name is used, however, double-check that addresses, emails, websites and phone numbers also belong to the real organization.
  • Package Delivery Scams: These schemes are “notifications” that arrive in email or text that ask you to click a link for information about something being sent to you. Look for contextual information such as the name of the delivery company, a tracking ID, the name of the sender — especially if you aren’t expecting a package. If it’s not there, it’s likely a trick. The scammer may hope you click the link and provide personal or financial information, or it could be a link that installs malware on your phone or computer.   
  • Fake-Winnings Scams: With these mailed, digital and phone “notifications,” the criminals tell the victim they’ve won a lottery or sweepstakes and then ask them to provide account information or even pay a fee to claim nonexistent prizes.
  • Computer Tech Support Scams: Scammers may claim your computer has a problem and charge for unnecessary support services. Worse, they’ll sometimes ask for access to the computer and then hold data hostage for a ransom.
  • The Grandparent Scam: The scammer pretends to be a grandchild or other family member in trouble. They ask their “relative” to wire money, hoping in their rush of kindness and willingness to help that they won’t pause to question the person’s identity.
  • Government-Impersonator Scam: These elder scam calls prey on fear. Often, someone posing as an IRS representative or law enforcement official will demand information or money, possibly threatening arrest or fines. Similarly, an impending-lawsuit scam involves the threat of a lawsuit unless the made-up issue is resolved immediately, usually with a funds transfer.

Spotlight on Medicare Fraud — Keep Your Information Private

Medicare scams can be particularly devastating. Medicare will never call you out of the blue and ask for private information, according to the Federal Communications Commission

Medicare recommends the following:

  • Don’t give your Medicare or Social Security number to anyone except your doctor or other people you know should have it.
  • Do not accept offers of money or gifts for free medical care.
  • Never let anyone except your health care provider review your medical records.
  • Never join a Medicare health or drug plan over the phone unless you’re the one who made the call to a verified Medicare phone number.

If someone demands your personal information or money — especially if they threaten to cancel your health benefits if you don’t comply — hang up and call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or visit medicare.gov.

Tips and Tactics: Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones from Scams

Regularly talk with loved ones about how to respond to suspicious calls. Familiarize them with some of the red flags of elder scams:

  • Unsolicited calls, especially from unknown numbers
  • Requests for personal or financial details
  • High-pressure tactics asking for an immediate decision
  • Promises that seem too good to be true

Here are a few protective actions you can take to avoid scammers:

Screen Your Calls

Never answer calls from unfamiliar numbers; let them go to voicemail. Once you pick up, the fraudster knows they found a working number, and they’ll probably keep trying to call you back again. 

It’s also possible that talking to them could allow them to create a voiceprint to use in future scams. A particularly tricky form of this is the "Can you hear me?" robocall. When asked that question, the person answering the phone says “yes,” and the caller immediately hangs up — but they may have recorded that “yes” to have a voice signature to use to authorize payments.

Use Call-Blocking Technology

Implement devices or services that can help filter out scam calls. Wireless carriers typically provide free filtering apps that identify and block calls likely to be scam calls. Apple and Android phones both allow you to silence calls and texts from people you don’t know.

Guard Personal Information

It should go without saying, but with the prevalence of scam calls these days, here’s a reminder: Never, ever divulge sensitive information over the phone unless you know the person you are talking to and they are authorized to have that information.

Learn More About Preventing Elder Care Scam Calls

Additional resources can help you know what to beware of with potential scam calls against the elderly. Here are some tips from reputable organizations:

After the Fact: What to Do If You’ve Experienced an Elder Scam

If you or a loved one has been defrauded by an elder scam — whether by phone, text, email or letter — one of the first things to do is let your bank and credit card companies know. Then, report it to the authorities.

One reason scam calls against the elderly are so popular is that older people are less likely to report suspected fraud. And maybe your loved one is hesitant. Shame sometimes stops people from reporting fraud, but you can report it. You have several options — and it’s OK to notify them all:

One incentive to file a report is that it can help support legislation and regulations. Laws make it more likely that the perpetrators will be punished. Legal penalties for scamming older people are becoming harsher with additional penalties for elder abuse and financial exploitation.

Be Vigilant and Spread the Word

From heart-breaking romance scams to deceptive charity schemes, the financial and emotional costs of elder scam calls are incalculable. Being scammed can lead to shame, financial distress and even trauma.

Once you understand how elder scams work, you can help raise awareness in your community. Collaborate with community organizations and use social media and other campaigns to spread the word.

Reporting incidents and spreading knowledge through community and social media initiatives can help prevent future financial and emotional harm. It can also mitigate the shame of being a victim. Protect yourself and your loved ones by staying informed, reporting scams and taking steps to prevent elder care scam calls and other types of fraud.

Trust in Choosing BrightStar Care® 

BrightStar Care caregivers and nurses are screened, and our agencies perform background checks to ensure we're a partner you can trust. Whether you're looking for in-home care services or assisted living for your loved one or a reliable medical staffing partner for your organization, our experienced local care team members are ready to help. Find a location near you, contact us online or call (866) 618-7827 to learn more about how BrightStar Care offers A Higher Standard®.