BBB warns of fraud and scams affecting senior citizens

August 21, 2014

Advice for avoiding targeted scams this National Senior Citizens Day

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared August 21 to be National Senior Citizens Day, a day to recognize contributions senior citizens make to the country. Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coast, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin wants to use this day as an opportunity to raise awareness of fraud and scams that target senior citizens.

 This is a growing concern as many fall victim to scammers every year. Last year , over 160,000 complaints of fraud and identity theft were made by those over the age of 60, according to the 2013 Consumer Sentinel Report. BBB encourages senior citizens to be aware of scams or fraud schemes that can affect them. It’s also important for families to keep the lines of communication open regarding finances and common scams targeting their elderly loved ones.

Some scams that commonly target senior citizens are:

Grandparent scam: Scammers will place a call to a senior posing as their grandchild or a relative in need of help or trapped in a foreign country. They will usually ask for cash to solve the problem and ask for payment through a money wiring service.

Health care or insurance fraud: Scammers may pose as a Medicare or insurance representative to get seniors to give them their personal or financial information. This was a popular scam recently with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Door to door sales or repairs: Con artists have been known to go door-to-door offering repair services or equipment sales. Products purchased may never be delivered, repairs may never be done or refunds won’t be issued.

Funeral fraud: Scammers will attend the funeral service of a stranger to take advantage of the widower or other family member, claiming the deceased had an outstanding debt with them. They will aggressively demand payment to settle fake debts.

Telemarketing fraud: Telemarketing scams often involve calls and email offers of free prizes, low-cost vitamins or health care products. Once a successful deal has been made, the buyer’s name and personal information is then shared with similar schemers looking for easy targets.

Internet fraud: Pop-up browser windows simulating virus-scanning software will fool victims into downloading a fake program. In some cases a virus will be downloaded allowing scammers to steal personal and financial information.

Investment scams: Because many seniors find with cash already saved for their retirement, investment schemes have been a successful way for scammers to take advantage of them. From pyramid schemes to real estate investments, a number of scams target seniors looking to invest cash for their later years.

To avoid falling for scams like these, BBB offer this advice to seniors and their families:

  • Start with Trust. Find a business you can trust by doing your research first through
  • Beware of high pressure sales tactics. If someone is pressuring you to make an on-the-spot decision without allowing you to research first, be prepared to walk away from the offer.
  • Be wary of unsolicited correspondence. Do not verify or give out personal information through email or over the phone unless you have confirmed the identity of the caller on the other line. Also, consider registering your phone number with the National Do-Not-Call registry at
  • Use secure payment methods. Never send money by wire transfer or prepaid debit card to someone you don’t know. Use a credit card for additional protection. Also, be wary of requests for a large lump sum of money in advance of work or products.
  • Safeguard your personal information. Avoid sharing your Social Security Number, financial information, birth date or address with an unknown source.
  • Report fraud. If you think you may have fallen victim to a fraud, contact your BBB online or over the phone at 512-445-2911. You can also file a complaint with the Texas Attorney General’s office or report it to your local FBI office.