You just won a million dollars…and other senior scams!

September 13, 2019

By: Allison Kauffman

According to the National Council on Aging, it is estimated that older adults lose billions of dollars to scammers each year. The good news is that older consumers are more likely to report scamming incidents than younger adults. In 2019 there are many scams making the rounds locally and nationally.

Social Security Spoofing Calls- The National Council on Aging reports there has been a significant increase in fraudulent telephone calls from people claiming to be with the Social Security Administration. Seniors report being threatened that they face arrest or other legal action if they fail to provide phone numbers or press the number indicated in the message to address an issue. Other scams involve a caller saying they want to help an individual activate a suspended Social Security number. They may also spoof the actual Social Security hotline number to appear on the recipient’s phone. Those receiving one of these calls should hang up. Seniors should know that the Social Security Administration rarely contacts a person by phone unless you have ongoing business with them. Also, they never make threats about arrest or legal action. You should always report suspicious calls to the SSA Office of the Inspector General. To make a report, call 1-800-269-0271. You can also submit a report online at:

Grandparent Scam- The grandparent scam has been around for several years. A scammer calls an older adult pretending to be a grandchild who’s been involved in an accident or legal trouble and needs money immediately. Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that instead of using wire transfer or gift cards, an increasing number of older adults are mailing cash to these callers. According to reports, the scammers often ask seniors to divide the bills into envelopes and place them between the pages of a magazine, then send them using various carriers, including UPS, FedEx, and the U.S. Postal Service.

The FTC warns that if you or a loved one receives one of these calls, don’t act right away. Call that grandchild back on a correct phone number and verify their whereabouts. If you’ve mailed cash, report it right away to the Postal Service or shipping company you used. Be sure to also file a complaint to the FTC at The average amount lost through the grandparent scam is $9,000, according to the National Council on Aging.

A similar scam was reported by State Police this June. According to WKOK News and the Northumberland County District Attorney, a recent attempt involved an 89-year old man from Turbotville who said he received a phone call from a person pretending to be his grandson. The scammer said they had been in an accident in Virginia and was in need of some money. The local resident caught onto the scam and eventually, informed the District Attorney’s office. The DA’s office recommends if you receive a call like this; take some time to research it before sending any money or giving any information. Calling the grandchild directly or asking a family member to track down the grandchild is recommended to protect yourself.

Natural Disaster Scam- Wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricane and flooding…these unpredictable forces of nature can be devastating to those living in affected areas. Even those not directly affected may want to lend support in whatever way they can.

Unfortunately, scammers target both those who’ve been directly affected and those who want to offer their support. Natural disaster scams typically start with unsolicited contact by telephone, social media, e-mail, or in person. Scammers may:

  • Impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-meaning consumers.
  • Set up fake websites with names that mimic legitimate charities to trick people into sending money.
  • Pretend to be from the IRS and collect personal information under the guise of helping victims file loss claims and get tax refunds.

To find reputable charities to support victims of natural disasters, use the IRS’s tax exempt organization search here: Tax Exemption Organization Search If you are a victim of a disaster and are looking for relief or financial assistance, be sure to use the Benefits Check Up tool to find legitimate help with no risk of a scam. Click here for more:

Here is a list of other scams seniors should watch out for:

    1. Medicare/Health Insurance Scams- Perpetrators may pose as a Medicare representative to get older people to give out personal information over the phone.
    2. Counterfeit Prescription Drugs- Counterfeit drug scams operate on the Internet, where seniors go to find better prices on medications. Besides paying money for something that will not help a person’s medical condition, victims may purchase unsafe substances that could cause physical harm.
    3. Funeral and Cemetery Scams- Scammers read obituaries and fall funeral homes and cemeteries. Then they contact widowers claiming the deceased had an outstanding debt with them and will try to extort money from relatives to settle the debt. Disreputable funeral homes will also add unnecessary charges to the bill of a family member.
    4. Telemarketing and Phone Scams- Scammers use fake telemarketing calls to prey on seniors. These scams are incredibly hard to trace, since there is no paper trail. The scammer may tell an individual that they have found a large sum of money and will split it with the person if they make a “good faith” payment by withdrawing funds from their bank account.
    5. Charity Scams-
    6. Internet Fraud-
    7. Reverse Mortgage Scams- There is the potential for a reverse mortgage borrower to be scammed. Scammers can take advantage of older adults who have recently unlocked equity in their homes.  Those considering reverse mortgages should be cognizant of people in their lives pressuring them to obtain a reverse mortgage, or those that stand to benefit from the borrower accessing equity, such as home repair companies who approach the older adult directly.
    8. Lottery Scam- Here, scammers inform their mark that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes of some kind and need to make some sort of payment to unlock the supposed prize. Often, seniors will be sent a check that they can deposit in their bank account, knowing that while it shows up in their account immediately, it will take a few days before the (fake) check is rejected. During that time, the criminals will quickly collect money for supposed fees or taxes on the prize, which they pocket while the victim has the “prize money” removed from his or her account as soon as the check bounces.



The Federal Trade Commission offers free materials you can download and share to protect older adults from scams. One of the most important ways to avoid becoming a victim of a scam is to pass along information about scams to others, to keep them informed and to help prevent them from becoming the next victim. Visit our Purposeful Living blog page for more important information on a variety of topics at