“Scams Target Seniors”

by Michael Siebenaler

You have worked hard through life. You have great experience. Keep yourself and loved ones protected and stress free by guarding against the rising threat of scams. Many seniors have experienced scams and can share a related, and hopefully resolved, story. Here are some key steps to avoid scams, or to address them when they arise. Mr. Richard Eppstein, President and Board member of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for North West and West Central Ohio & South East Michigan, shared some tips on “senior scams” that can eliminate confusion and, most of all, transform any fear into informed, safe action. Why do scammers particularly target seniors? “There are several reasons,” says Eppstein. “First, seniors have money, which is often easily available since many seniors keep their money in banks, checking accounts and even in their homes.”

Strangers in the house

“I have seen many “travelers” show up at the home of a senior, figure a way to get into the house, and walk out with thousands of dollars in cash that the senior thought was hidden,” says Eppstein. “We often are told that seniors are cheated because they are more trusting, but I think it’s more that the con artist hits them with a story or trick that they have never seen before.”

Scammers can be family

Senior women are also targets because they might live alone. “Their husband may have died years ago and they have been livingly independently for years,” says Eppstein. “They have nobody to ask when a scammer approaches them with a convincing story. Their children may not be immediately available and they may not have close relationships with neighbors.” “Seniors usually have great credit ratings, which scammers try to use for themselves,” says Eppstein. “Also, it is sad but true, many scammers are actually family members. They want control over the assets of the senior. Some estimates I have seen are than more than 50% of scams against seniors are perpetrated by members of their own families!” It is critical to call the BBB as early as possible when approached by anything unusual or threatening. Look out for any situation where the result is to send money (“work from home” setup fee, etc.) or claim you owe money. The BBB takes thousands of calls from consumers every year and posts alerts on Facebook and Twitter. Seniors can also connect using “live chat” on the www.bbb.org web site. “Our knowledgeable staff can quickly tell you what it is and what will happen next,” says Eppstein. “I love it when a senior recognizes a scam phone call or door-to-door crook and outsmarts them.”

Tech crimes tough to trace

New technologies have unfortunately given scammers more ways to cheat seniors. Caller ID number are often faked, bogus company emails can look surprisingly authentic, and web links can expose vital information (Social Security numbers, bank account information, etc.) that leads to identity theft and other crimes that can be hard to trace. “We have a great relationship with the Ohio and Michigan Attorneys General, vast internet sources of information, and, most valuable, a network of over 100 BBBs throughout North America, which compare notes and track frauds across the continent,” says Eppstein. Encountered a scam? Stay safe. Don’t let strangers in the house. Hang up the phone even if the scammer is still talking. Keep updated virus protection & back-ups on your computer, disconnect from harmful websites and do not click on suspicious web links. Best of all, just call the BBB 419-531-3116 or 800-743-4222, email info@toledobbb.org and/or visit https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/toledo/ online and try the “Scam Tracker” resource that provides law enforcement agencies with immediate detail on the latest current scams.

Other scam situations may include the following:

  • Charitable donations (use websites like givewell.org and givedirect.org to verify)
  •  “Congratulations” offer/ sweepstakes/lottery
  • Financial advising/investments (“work from home”, etc.)
  • Funeral/cemetery services
  • Health care related products/services (pharmaceutical companies/ anti-aging products, etc.)
  • Homeowner/reverse mortgage
  • Misrepresentation of other organizations/individuals ‘ (the IRS, claiming to be a “long lost” family member, etc.)
  • Tech support (an “IT (information technology) expert” wants to control your computer, etc.)

BBB, Integrity Place 7668 King’s Pointe Rd., Toledo, OH 43617. Office hours Monday through Thursday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


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