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Most Common Phone Scams Targeting Seniors and How to Protect Your Elderly Loved Ones

Mobile devices have advanced enough that it is now possible to access anything from banking services to romantic partners from your phone. This ease of access greatly benefits elderly folk by allowing them to get more tasks done without much movement. While phones have multiple uses, they unfortunately expose the elderly to the risk of being scammed. Many seniors lack awareness of how phone scams are perpetuated and end up as victims, given how scammers change the tactics they use to target unsuspecting individuals. 

Here is a look at several popular phone scams and how to safeguard the elderly from them. First, the scams:

Lottery Scams

This type of fraud involves perpetrators tricking elderly folk into thinking they have won a vacation or a huge sum of cash. They then try to convince their victims to pay certain fees in the form of taxes or delivery charges to claim their reward. Many seniors end up falling for these scams for different reasons ranging from mental decline to lack of awareness of phone scams.

Technical Support Cons

Many old folk are not tech-savvy, which makes them easy targets for scammers. Tech support cons often call seniors and pose as techies from reputable companies like Apple or Microsoft. They convince them that their internet device has a problem that can be fixed with their direction. In reality, these instructions lead the victims to install harmful malware. Once installed, the scammers can proceed to steal their victims’ identities and sensitive data or blackmail them.

Romance Scams

Most senior citizens rarely have many romantic relationship options and may experience loneliness and boredom. They may join dating sites and other online social spaces to find friends and escape loneliness. Scammers often take advantage of this by creating fake online accounts and profiles. They then use affection or expressions of love to deceive the elderly folks into sending them money and gifts. They can even ask them to divulge their sensitive information, including name, location, and date of birth, which can lead to serious consequences such as financial loss or compromised personal security. 

Government Representatives Scams

Fraudsters calling the elderly and pretending to work with the IRS or other government agencies is another popular phone scam. Fraudsters take advantage of senior citizens’ trust in the government, threatening them to make immediate payments and divulging sensitive information. For example, they may inform a senior that they owe the IRS $3,500 in back taxes and they need to pay or face jail time. These scams often result in perpetrators asking their victims to make payments in the form of gift cards.

Grandparent Cons

Many old folks struggle with dementia, live alone, or do not know much about tech scammers. Fraudsters can maximize such vulnerabilities by targeting victims with dementia by pretending to be their grandchildren. They research the names of these grandchildren on social media or other public records, then call their victim. They might claim to be in trouble and in need of financial aid. This is how they exploit older people’s love and concern for their families.

How to Avoid Falling For a Phone Scammer

Since we can expect the rates of phone scams to go up with the rise in phone use, here is how you can help seniors avoid phone scams:

1. Verify caller’s identities

Many scammers often use impersonation tactics to deceive their victims. So, it would help to teach seniors how to identify scammers by checking the real identities of callers online. For instance, they can reverse search the phone number to check the identity of the caller whenever they receive a phone call with urgent demands for cash. They only need to type in the caller’s number to get their information.

2. Educate them

Most senior citizens are not tech-savvy and may struggle to even flag phone scams. You can help keep them safe by educating them on the subject. Provide them with realistic examples of how these scams occur and the best ways to handle them. You can also teach them the red flags to look out for whenever they are interacting with unknown callers. When they understand how phone scams work, they can recognize the warning signs and avoid being duped.

3. Install phone screening apps

Phone screening involves filtering out new numbers from unknown callers. Thanks to technology, some apps provide this service automatically, including caller identification and call-blocking functionalities. The former lets you know who is calling so you can accept or decline the call request. The latter blocks unknown numbers, especially those that have been reported as spam. By installing screening apps on senior citizens’ phones, you help them avoid any interactions with these scammers.

4. Install antivirus software and firewalls

To ensure your parents do not fall victim to malware attacks, help them install cyber security tools for protection. Begin by installing antivirus software to scan and eliminate malware threats before they infiltrate the gadget. If a device has firewalls, it is protected against unauthorized access. Since most seniors do not know how to operate these tools, you will have to do it for them.

5. Teach them to avoid divulging personal information

Many senior citizens have money in their bank accounts either from life savings or retirement funds. Knowing this, scammers often employ a myriad of tactics to try to access these funds. They pretend to be friends or government representatives to try and get seniors to divulge their sensitive information. To help your aging parents, educate them on the importance of keeping their information private. 


Senior citizens are prime targets for many scammers because of their little exposure to tech information. Fraudsters know that most of them are isolated and do not quite grasp how phone scams work. While this is often the case, not all hope is lost. If you have elderly relatives, take the responsibility of educating them about these phone scams. By following the tips listed in this piece, you will go a long way in safeguarding your loved ones.