Fraud Perpetrated Against Senior Citizens

Feb 28th, 2010 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Senior Finances

Fraud perpetrated against senior citizens grows daily.  From selling a senior an un-needed riding scooter to bilking thousands of dollars, fraud just doesn’t stop.  The perps have no sense of decency or concern for seniors whatsoever.  Thus we need to find ways to protect ourselves.  This SCJ article begins a series on Fraud Against Senior Citizens.

SCJ will take a look at several types of fraud, describe how they occur, and will then make recommendations on how to self-protect.  Rather than create a lengthy article that will get tiresome to read, there will be several articles in a series that you will want to come back each week and read.  They will be posted on subsequent Sundays, so look for the next one in a week.

Why is fraud so prevalent among senior victims?  The FBI has researched the issue thoroughly and has this to say about why seniors are easy targets:

1) Older American citizens are most likely to have a “nest egg,” own their home and/or have excellent credit all of which the con-man will try to tap into. The fraudster will focus his/her efforts on the segment of the population most likely to be in a financial position to buy something.

2) Individuals who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Two very important and positive personality traits, except when it comes to dealing with a con-man. The con-man will exploit these traits knowing that it is difficult or impossible for these individuals to say “no” or just hang up the phone.

3) Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know who to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or do not know they have been scammed. In some cases, an elderly victim may not report the crime because he or she is concerned that relatives may come to the conclusion that the victim no longer has the mental capacity to take care of his or her own financial affairs.

4) When an elderly victim does report the crime, they often make poor witnesses. The con-man knows the effects of age on memory and he/she is counting on the fact that the elderly victim will not be able to supply enough detailed information to investigators such as: How many times did the fraudster call? What time of day did he/she call? Did he provide a call back number or address? Was it always the same person? Did you meet in person? What did the fraudster look like? Did he/she have any recognizable accent? Where did you send the money? What did you receive if anything and how was it delivered? What promises were made and when? Did you keep any notes of your conversations?

The victims’ realization that they have been victimized may take weeks or, more likely, months after contact with the con-man. This extended time frame will test the memory of almost anyone.

5) Lastly, when it comes to products that promise increased cognitive function, virility, physical conditioning, anti-cancer properties and so on, older Americans make up the segment of the population most concerned about these issues. In a country where new cures and vaccinations for old diseases have given every American hope for a long and fruitful life, it is not so unbelievable that the products offered by these con-men can do what they say they can do. 

Next week we will take a look at the kinds of fraud perpetrated against seniors, identifying not only what they are but also how they occur.



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  1. [...] Senior Citizen Journal has written about fraud perpetrated against seniors in the past. We know seniors are easy targets because we grew up in a time when being polite and ‘nice’ was how we were taught to behave.  We fall prey to aggressive marketing that targets our vulnerabilities.  We’re generally not good witnesses because of cognitive issues many of us experience, and we hesitate to report being victimized because of how it makes us look.// However, there is a new scam out there now that hits us with one of the most valuable possessions we have:  our home. [...]

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