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BBB Tip of the Week: Warning Signs of Elderly Scams

Some reports have shown a third or more of scam victims are elderly. And authorities including the FBI say many senior citizens fail to report fraud and scams due to embarrassment and fear of losing independence. This indicates seniors may be an even greater target than the reports show.

Seniors are prime targets for several reasons. In general, they tend to have some combination of the following: a nest egg, ownership of a home with substantial equity and very good credit. The values of being polite and trusting are often associated with the baby boomer generation. Also, studies have shown an increased likelihood of cognitive decline in some older adults.

Common scams targeting seniors include romance schemes primarily aimed at women, fake charity scams, the grandparent scam to “rescue” an injured or kidnapped grandchild, home repair scams demanding upfront payment, investment fraud, and health care scams involving free or miracle drugs or Medicare coverage. These scams can arrive in several different ways: from telemarketers, door-to-door interactions, mailers, and in person at churches, senior centers, grocery stores or anywhere seniors regularly visit.

The Better Business Bureau encourages you to be on alert for:

Excessive junk mail: Sweepstakes scams are prevalent and may ask for money, bank account or credit card information, or even a Social Security number. You can optout of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from many national companies for five years at register.php. To opt out of prescreened credit offers, visit

Excessive bank withdrawals or written checks: Con artists will continue to come up with creative reasons why their victims need to give them more money once they’ve gotten the initial buy-in.

Unexpected home equity loan or reverse mortgage: Such activities can be entirely normal and enhance anyone’s quality of life. However, if the decision is sudden or seems desperate and rushed, ask why the funds are needed.

Guarded about phone calls: A secretive nature about phone calls may be a sign that a con artist has threatened negative consequences if revealed.

Financial woes: Your first instinct may be to loan money, but ask why there is financial trouble.

For report fraud, contact the BBB by visiting or calling (509) 455-4200.

By Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor


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