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Scams targeting seniors
© Andrey Popov |
Security & privacy

The scams seniors fall for most – And how to spot them

There are so many scams to worry about. It’s like a digital minefield online. But one group of people appears to be more targeted than others. Seniors.

The FBI recently put out a report highlighting the staggering number of scams targeting seniors. We’ll tell you a few viral scams and ways to outsmart them. Please share this article with the seniors in your life so they can stay safe. Tap or click here for five useful apps every senior should download.

Read on for details on the most common scams seniors fall for and what you can do about them.

Here’s the backstory

Tons of scams happen every day. But according to the latest statistics from the FBI’s 2021 Elder Fraud Report, scams involving people over 50 increased dramatically over the last year.

The FBI thinks that things are likely much worse than their report indicates. One reason is that seniors are less likely to report fraud (only 20% over 70). In comparison, 44% of people in their 20s and 30s report fraud.

In worrying trends, the FBI points out that in 2021:

  • Over 92,000 victims were older than 60.
  • It amounted to $1.7 billion in losses.
  • The losses increased by 74% compared to 2020.
  • The average victim over 60 lost $1,800 per scam.
  • 3,100 victims lost more than $100,000 to scams.

What you need to know

Through a combination of factors, senior citizens are a primary source of stolen funds for scammers. Here are some of the most common scams that seniors fall victim to.

Tech support

This is the most-reported kind of scam that targets older citizens. Through malicious email attachments or pop-ups on a website, they usually inform the user of a problem with their computer. 

To fix it, they must dial a provided phone number or a link they need to click. Unfortunately, the number goes to a fraudulent call center, or the link goes to a malicious site that can steal sensitive information or infect their device with malware.

The aim is to convince the victim to pay for expensive antivirus software. Sometimes, the scammers request full access to the victim’s computer. This is incredibly dangerous as they can steal personal information without the victim noticing and install malware from afar. 

FBI warning: Tech support scammers continue to impersonate well-known tech companies, offering to fix non-existent technology issues or renew fraudulent software or security subscriptions. Don’t fall for it. If you pay for this supposed antivirus software, you’ll be handing over money to thieves and your machine won’t be protected.

Tap or click for a recent tech support scam example.

Confidence fraud/romance scams

Preying on seniors’ loneliness, scammers often target single people with fake identities to win over their affection and confidence. This scam usually takes a few weeks to materialize, but the goal is to ask for increasingly more significant sums of money. 

FBI warning: Scam artists often say they are in the military or a trades-based industry engaged in projects outside the U.S. That makes it easier to avoid meeting in person — and more plausible when they request money be sent overseas for a medical emergency or unexpected legal fee.

Tap or click here for details on a romance scam that led to one woman losing her life savings.

Government impersonation

In these scams, criminals typically pretend to be from a government agency. While the backstory to their call or email varies, it usually ends in demanding money.

In some scenarios, criminals tell the victims they must pay a fee for missing jury duty or to take care of an outstanding warrant. In others, scammers pretend to be utility workers and need to confirm your personal details, which you should never give them.

FBI warning: The criminals often extort victims with threats of physical or financial harm to obtain personally identifiable information. The subjects generally demand prepaid cards, wire transfers, or cash.

Tap or click here for ways to avoid falling victim to government impersonation scams.

How to avoid falling victim to scams

Scams come in many forms. The best way to stay protected is to know how to spot them in advance. Here are some tips to avoid falling victim to scams:

  • Safeguard your information – Never give out personal data if you don’t know the sender of a text or email or can’t verify their identity. Criminals only need your name, email address and telephone number to rip you off.
  • Always use 2FA – Use two-factor authentication (2FA) for better security whenever available. Tap or click here for details on 2FA.
  • Clickbait headlines — Sensational wording in headlines and captions is a red flag. Nothing is “shocking” or “bizarre” enough to take the risk of falling victim to a scam.
  • Avoid links and attachments – Don’t click on links or attachments you receive in unsolicited emails. They could be malicious and infect your device with malware and/or steal sensitive information.
  • Antivirus is vital – Always have a trusted antivirus program updated and running on all your devices. We recommend our sponsor, TotalAV. Right now, get an annual plan with TotalAV for only $19 at That’s over 85% off the regular price!

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