What should you know about elderly scams if you’re supporting an aging parent?

Good question.

We hear scam-related stories frequently from our Benton House family, often from children of seniors as we’re helping settle their older parents in one of our assisted living homes.

We’ve heard it all, from deceitful sweepstakes to romance scams. And it always has us clenching our jaws.

Because the reality is hard to accept.

Are there really people out there purposefully targeting senior citizens? Sadly, it happens often enough that it’s important to know the possibilities.

In fact, a Federal Trade Commission report stated that senior citizens, defined as over 60 years old, filed 318,850 fraud reports in 2019 — reporting losses of more than $440 million.[1]

Here are five useful statistics about elderly scams to know


Older adults report higher dollar losses from fraud than younger adults

Surprisingly, younger adults (aged 20-59) are more likely to report losing money to fraud on the whole. However, adults over 60 years old who report losing money describe significantly higher losses. And in particular? Seniors over 80 years old report the highest average losses — two to four times as much as any other age group.


Senior citizens are especially susceptible to certain scams

While younger adults are significantly more likely to report losing money from online shopping scams, older adults are much more vulnerable to a handful of other types of frauds. Specifically, adults over 60 are nearly six times (474%) more likely than younger adults to report losing money on a tech support scam. They’re also three times more likely to report dollars lost on prize, sweepstakes, or lottery scams. Finally, seniors are more than twice as likely to report a financial loss on a friend or family imposter scam.


The most devastating category of elderly scams: romance

Seniors reported a shockingly high $84 million in aggregate losses on romance scams in 2019, for seniors between 60 and 79 years old. After romance, government imposter scams ranked next, with a reported $61 million loss from adults over 60.


Seniors 80 and older are most vulnerable to phone fraud and lottery-type scams

Adults over 80 report highest losses from prize, sweepstakes and lottery scams. Phone scams, more than any other method, result in the highest total reported losses by older adults, especially those 80 and older.


Scammers get money through gift cards and wire transfers

Overall, gift cards are the most common payment choice for scammers of older adults, followed by reload cards and credit cards. Wire transfer payments, however, took most dollars from seniors — most often in connection with romance scams. Nearly a third of the dollars seniors reported wiring to scammers — about $46 million — were related to romance scams via wire transfer, with an average individual loss of about $18,000.


    Protect your loved ones by being aware of potential scams

      In the case of elderly scams, knowledge is definitely power. Hopefully this overview of statistics can help equip you to know what to be aware of, as well as encourage you to start a conversation with your aging parents. Help them get into the driver seat so they know what to look out for, and you may help prevent a devastating situation.

      It helps to acknowledge that it’s possible your parents have a different mindset about fraud than you. One reason fraudsters target seniors is they can sometimes be overly trusting — on top of which their pride and desire for independence often prevents them from sharing with you what’s going on.


      Next Steps

      Concerned your elderly parents may be susceptible to scams? We understand what you’re going through. And we know how helpful it can be to talk to someone who’s seen it all. Feel free to call or send us a message anytime, and we can connect you with resources to support you and your loved ones.


      [1] Protecting Older Consumers – ftc.gov