Protecting Aging Loved Ones From Financial Exploitation

What are some of the most common ways scam artists victimize the elderly? How can I protect my parents against this kind of abuse?

Phony telemarketing ploys. Bogus health cures. Get-rich quick investments. These are just a few of the vast assortment of scams designed to cheat elderly people out of hard-earned savings and retirement income. Not only are senior citizens especially vulnerable to these schemes – in some cases they’re the only target. Do your best to educate your parents about this threat and make them aware of the following types of fraud.

Identity theft

Every identifying number your parents possess – social security, credit card, driver’s license, telephone – is a key that unlocks some storage of money or goods. A thief can hijack these numbers from a senior simply by requesting them over the phone on an invented pretext. They can also be stolen from a purse or wallet or found on mail taken from the mailbox or receipts in the trash. Warn your parents to take precautions against all of these possibilities.

Home-maintenance fraud

Usually, this type of fraud involves a prepaid improvement or repair that is offered at greatly reduced prices. The most frequent schemes involve siding, roofing, driveways and sidewalks. After receiving payment, the con artist disappears or finishes the job with inferior materials. To protect your parents against scams of this nature, find out how long the contractor has been licensed to do business. Ask about affiliations with professional trade associations and consumer agencies. And remember that it’s generally a good idea to avoid hiring workers who solicit door-to-door.

Telemarketing and mail fraud

Many elderly people are scammed when they are convinced to buy goods and services they don’t need through glossy mail-order advertisements or appeals that come over the phone. Phone solicitors usually pressure their victims to place an order immediately using a credit card because the offer is “limited.” Beware of smooth-talking callers who ask for checking account numbers.

Sweepstakes, gambling, and lotteries

Sweepstakes letters lure seniors with promises of “guaranteed prizes.” Marketers of gambling are hard at work targeting senior citizens. States promote lotteries in almost every corner store. Many elderly people are losing their retirement savings, pensions and social security checks to these wolves in sheep’s clothing. Equip your parents to stand firm against their enticements.

Health and medical fraud

Health-care deception takes millions of dollars annually from its victims, most of whom are elderly Americans. Your parents should never invest in health-care products or treatments without first consulting with a doctor or pharmacist.

Financial fraud

Several forms of financial fraud are especially aimed at elderly people, including investment fraud, living trust scams, pyramid schemes, phony “associations,” and something commonly known as the “bank examiner scheme.” The best way to combat these scams is to make sure that your parents have a comprehensive financial plan for their personal investments, insurance and estate. A reputable financial planner can help them put their affairs in order. Once this is done, it should be easy and automatic for them to say no to all solicitations.

Stay alert

Neither you nor your parents should end up in a position where you have to ask, “Who could have known?” You can know, and you can protect yourselves against fraud if you’re watchful and wary and keep an eye out for tell-tale warning signs. So stay in tune with your parents’ needs, wants and concerns and put them in touch with a reputable attorney, doctor, counselor or pastor who can give them consistent, well-grounded advice.

For additional help and information on this topic, we’d encourage you to consult the resources and referrals highlighted below. Or if you have relationship concerns and challenges associated with this situation, please don’t hesitate to give our Counseling department a call.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Caring for Aging Parents

Caregiver Action Network

National Association of Area Agencies on Aging

National Center on Elder Abuse

Caring for Ill or Aging Parents

Elderly Care

Scamming the Elderly

You May Also Like