BBB warns of scams that target senior citizens

ID-10090006We all love Grandma, don’t we? She’s always been there for us. Unfortunately, scammers love Grandma too, but for the wrong reasons. Scam artists often target seniors because they’re more likely to be home – possibly even alone – and may have some money saved up.

Last year, there were nearly 215,000 complaints of fraud and identity theft from victims over the age of 60, according to the 2014 Consumer Sentinel Network. BBB encourages senior citizens to be aware of scams or fraud schemes that can affect them. It’s also important for families to keep the lines of communication open regarding finances and common scams targeting their elderly loved ones.

Some common scams that target senior citizens include:

Grandparent scam: Also called an “emergency scam.” Scammers will place a call to a senior posing as their grandchild or a relative in need of help or trapped in a foreign country. They will usually ask for cash to solve the problem and ask for payment through a money wiring service. Some red flags to look out for include urgent callers pressuring quick action and callers claiming to be in Canada or another international location.

Health care or insurance fraud: Scammers may pose as a Medicare or insurance representative to get seniors to give them their personal or financial information. This was a popular scam recently with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Foreign lottery scam: This scam will sometimes include a very real looking check and many times will ask you to pay a “tax” or “fee” on your winnings. Most will originate from Canada, Ireland, Spain, the Caribbean or Nigeria. They will come in numerous variations and are illegal in the U.S. So, remember if you’ve truly won, you shouldn’t need to pay.

Home repair scam: Many senior citizens may be physically incapable of making home repairs; therefore, many scammers will use this disability as an opportunity to take advantage of you. Be wary of people who ask you to get the required permits, pressure for an immediate decision or demand cash only or full payment up-front. Try to ask a lot of questions.

To avoid falling for scams like these, BBB offer this advice to seniors and their families:

  • Start with Trust.Find a business you can trust by doing your research first through
  • Beware of high pressure sales tactics. If someone is pressuring you to make an on-the-spot decision without allowing you to research first, be prepared to walk away from the offer.
  • Be wary of unsolicited correspondence. Do not verify or give out personal information through email or over the phone unless you have confirmed the identity of the caller on the other line. Also, consider registering your phone number with the National Do-Not-Call registry at
  • Use secure payment methods. Never send money by wire transfer or prepaid debit card to someone you don’t know. Use a credit card for additional protection. Also, be wary of requests for a large lump sum of money in advance of work or products.
  • Safeguard your personal information.Avoid sharing your Social Security Number, financial information, birth date or address with an unknown source.
  • Report fraud. If you think you may have fallen victim to a fraud, contact your BBB online or over the phone at 512-445-2911. You can also file a complaint with the Texas Attorney General’s office or report it to your local FBI office.