Online Scams Seniors Should Be on the Lookout for

September 26, 2023
September 26, 2023

Online scams are all too common these days, and unfortunately, many of them target seniors. What's worse is they are becoming increasingly sophisticated, making them all the more difficult to spot. If you've even fallen victim to one of these online scams, you're not alone. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported $3.1 billion in losses by online scam victims aged 60 years old and older in 2022.  

What can you do? Vigilance is key; here are the most common online scams targeting seniors and how to protect yourself.

Online scams by the numbers

The statistics are sobering. The FBI IC3 report notes the following from 2022 for victims aged 60 years old and older:  

  • There was an 84 percent increase in losses from 2021
  • The average dollar loss per victim was $35,101
  • Almost 5,500 victims lost more than $100,000

What's more, those numbers are based on scams reported to the IC3. Unfortunately, many are embarrassed to report that they fell victim to an online scam. This, unfortunately, works to the scammer's advantage. If you don't report, not only will other potential victims be unaware, but law enforcement won't be able to stop them.

Common online scams targeting seniors

Seniors are often targeted for online scams because they are perceived by scammers to be trusting, polite, and less experienced with technology. They are also attractive to scammers because they typically have money saved, own a home, and have good credit. Here are some of the most common online scams to watch for:

  • Medicare scams – Scammers will send an email or text message claiming to be a Medicare representative. They may tell you they need a new Medicare card or supplemental policy or are trying to bill Medicare on your behalf and need personal information such as your Social Security Number to do so.
  • Online shopping scams – A scammer may create an online storefront, but they don't sell products. The storefront is realistic, tricking you into ordering and providing your credit card information, yet the product never arrives. In the meantime, fraudulent purchases have been made on your card.
  • Tech support scams – You are browsing the internet when a pop-up ad says a virus has infected your device and to click on the link to remove it or reach tech support. In most cases, your device isn't infected until you click on the pop-up ad. Then, your device will be flooded with malware, which can spy on your online activity and/or track the keystrokes you use when logging into your online accounts. Calling the recommended 'tech support' is also a scam as they will likely try to gain control of your device or ask for personal information to protect you from fake viruses.
  • Lottery scams – Scammers will send a text or email saying you've won a prize or money, and to collect, you'll need to cover a processing fee that you can wire to them directly. The result is they take your money, and you don't actually win anything.
  • Charity scams – Seniors are often approached by scammers who claim to be seeking donations to a worthy cause but are actually trying to take your money and/or steal your identity. This is even more common after natural disasters as fake charities try to give themselves credibility by tying in with an actual event.
  • Romance scams – In this scam, you meet someone online and begin to build a connection with them over time without having met. They may even have active social media accounts or other ways to seem legitimate. However, they will eventually ask you for money to cover some kind of emergency. Once you send it, they will disappear.  

Red flags to watch for

Even with the most sophisticated online scammers, there are usually some red flags to watch for, such as:

  • Claiming you need to "act now"
  • Using bad English or typos in their communications
  • Asking you to pay to receive something free
  • Instructing you to pay by wiring money or sending a gift card
  • Asking you to deposit funds or forward money to someone other than the person contacting you
  • A random "pop-up" in a new browser window
  • A webpage or email that looks a little different from how a company usually looks

Protecting Yourself from Online Scams

In addition to being aware of common online scams and knowing what to watch for, these tips can also help you protect yourself:  

  • Seek the advice of a personal friend or family member to discuss any unsolicited offers, requests for money, or personal information you’re unsure about.
  • Never share your social security number, credit card, bank information, account passwords, or other personal information with strangers who contact you. In general, it's best to give as little personal data as possible, even in legitimate circumstances.
  • Ask for written details of any offers or prizes you may be eligible for, and wait to respond until you have reviewed the information thoroughly.  
  • Don't feel pressured into making purchases or signing contracts until all your questions are answered.
  • Specific to charitable donation requests, always double-check the charity's rating through BBB Wise Giving Alliance or Charity Navigator.
  • Specific to online shopping, always use familiar and/or trusted websites and make sure the URL starts with HTTPS and/or look for the padlock icon before purchasing.

What's more, check your bank and credit card statements regularly, make sure your anti-virus program is regularly updated, create strong passwords that are changed often, and never enter personal information when using public Wi-Fi.

Online Scam Support in Senior Living

Our community takes online scams targeting seniors seriously and strives to keep residents as informed as possible. As such, the Roanoke County TRIAD meets monthly on the Friendship campus to help prevent the exploitation of seniors. All are welcome; the sessions are free and occur on the first Thursday of the month at 1 p.m. in the chapel.

To learn more, download our
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367 Hershberger Road, Roanoke, VA 24012


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