BBB Educates Senior Citizens on Ways to Recognize and Avoid Scams

April 29, 2014

Over the past three years, nearly 4,200 senior citizens in eastern North Carolina benefited from Better Business Bureau’s Senior Series program. BBB launched the program in April 2011 in an effort to educate seniors about ways to recognize and steer clear of common scams.

Nationwide, criminals steal billions of dollars each year from senior citizens. Seniors are often targets of scam artists because they generally are more trusting of others and perceived to be easier to persuade. They also typically have more free time and tend to make decisions by themselves.

BBB advises consumers to beware of the following scams that often target senior citizens:

Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams

You receive a check and letter announcing you have won a large sum of money. The letter tells you to deposit the check and wire funds in the same amount to cover fees, insurance and taxes. Ultimately, the check is counterfeit and the money you send is lost.

  • Avoid wiring money to someone who awards you with something too good to be true and never pay money to accept a prize.

Medical Alert scam

You receive a call from a company claiming you are eligible to receive a free medical alert system. The caller claims you have been recommended for that product by a friend and that everything is paid for. You are instructed to press a button to accept the offer and once you do so you immediately receive another call asking for your credit card number. Seniors who have accepted the offer later found out that they had been registered for a service with fees up to $400 a year.

  • Hang up the phone and avoid pressing any buttons, as this lets the caller know yours is an active number.
  • Be wary of anyone offering something free in exchange for your personal information.

Grandparent Scam

You receive a call from someone claiming to be your grandchild. The caller often claims to have gotten into a predicament in a different state, and asks you to wire money to them to post bail or pay for damages. The money ultimately goes to a scam artist and you are out possibly thousands of dollars.

  • Verify that you are truly speaking with your grandchild by asking questions only he or she could answer, and contact your grandchild’s parents to find out the child’s whereabouts before trusting the caller.

Home Repair Fraud

A person comes to your door and claims to be a repair expert. He tells you that he noticed your home, usually your roof or driveway, needs a repair and he can offer you a great deal. In the end, you could end up the victim for a job you did not need at all.

  • Trust your instincts. If the “expert” uses high pressure sales tactics or you feel intimated, turn them away.
  • Never pay the cost of a job upfront.
  • If you are unsure if your home truly needs a repair, contact a BBB Accredited contractor at for an estimate.

Other common scams that seniors fall victim to include charity scams, phishing e-mails and investment scams. Knowledge is the best defense against these crimes, and the BBB Senior Series allows seniors to not only learn how to spot and avoid scams, but also offers resources that seniors can turn to if they do become a victim.

BBB Senior Series offers resources to aid seniors in identifying and steering clear of scams, and makes presentations in eastern North Carolina to groups of seniors and caregivers to help raise awareness of these dangers. To request materials or to have someone from BBB speak with your group, e-mail Mallory Wojciechowski at

For additional information regarding BBB Senior Series, visit