Top Senior Scams to be on the Lookout For

Eras Senior Network of Waukesha County coordinates S.T.O.P. – an awareness program focusing on frauds and scams aimed at older adults.

In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission created the Pass it ON campaign aimed at encouraging people to share vital information about scams. The FTC encourages you to not only share gifts and food during the holidays, but also tips about scams targeting older adults.

Since 2016, Eras Senior Network has given 47 presentations to over 1,250 seniors and their caregivers about common scams targeting the senior population. Through our research and conversations with seniors who have experienced interactions with scam artists, we’ve collected a list of popular senior scams that we hope you’ll share with those you love.

Grandparent Scam: A scam artist calls a senior and says “Hi Grandma, it’s me!” Oftentimes the senior assumes they’re speaking to their grandchild and won’t even ask for a name. Sometimes, the scam artist pretends to be crying, which distorts their voice, making it easier for the senior to believe it could be their grandchild. The scammer will then tell the senior they are in some sort of trouble and will need money wired to them – and begs their “grandparent” not to tell their “parents”. To avoid this scam, ask the caller specific questions like their name, address, or something only your true grandchild would know – and never wire money or send gift cards through the internet!

Telemarketing “Yes” Scam: Telemarketing scam artists use a simple response to steal from you. In this scam, a senior will receive a call and be asked if they can hear the caller. The natural response is to say “yes”. Unfortunately, scam artists can record this response and use it to fraudulently authorize charges via the telephone, according to the Federal Communications Commission. The best way to avoid this is by screening your calls and only answering numbers you recognize, or finding another way to answer their question without saying the word “yes.”

Medicare Card Scams: As you may know, new Medicare cards without the individual’s social security number began being mailed in April 2018. With this comes the risk for Medicare related scams as predicted by the Better Business Bureau. Scam artists may ask you for your social security number or a payment in order to receive your card. Your new Medicare card will be sent to you automatically at no charge – you DO NOT need to do anything or pay anything for your new Medicare card to be mailed to you.

Spear Phishing: Spear phishing is an email or electronic communications scam targeted towards a specific individual, organization or business. Emails that look like they are from a friend or family member can actually be attempts to steal data. Before clicking on the message, hover your mouse (without clicking) above the sender’s email address to see if it is from the person you know. Phone calls may showing caller identification from a known person can also be spear phishing attempts. Once you realize the caller isn’t your friend or family member, hang up without saying anything!

Sharing what you know about frauds and scams may be the best gift you can give someone. If you feel like you have been a victim of a fraud or scam, contact your local police department by calling their non-emergency number.

Kathy Gale is Executive Director, Eras Senior Network, Inc. and a member of the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Task Force on Elder Abuse. S.T.O.P. Senior Frauds and Scams is brought to you by Eras through a grant from the Wisconsin Consumer Antifraud Fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County. More information about Eras Senior Network, Inc. can be found at