How To Recognize and Prevent Phone Scams Against Seniors

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In the past few years, we’ve seen a growing number of convincing telephone scams that target the elderly. As elder law and estate planning attorneys that work with senior citizens every day, we hope that by providing information about some common scams, we can prevent you or your elderly family members from being taken advantage of. Here’s our list of the most common telephone scams that target seniors: 

The Grandparents Scam

Of course, scams happen every day, but con artists predictably bolster their efforts and take advantage of people’s generosity during the holiday season. For example, one common ploy known as the “grandparent scam” includes a desperate sob story about a relative in trouble who needs money to be able to get home for the holidays.  In many cases, these defrauders may even search the internet looking for information that helps to convince the victims to trust the caller and give out cash.

The IRS Scam

Another one of the most common and intimidating ploys used against the elderly is known simply as the IRS scam. The caller threatens the victim with being arrested for unpaid taxes or a fake debt unless they pay up by providing their credit card or bank routing information over the phone. In some cases, the scammers even change the caller ID information or give out fake badge numbers to convince victims that the call is legitimate.

The Holiday Donation Scam

Even worse are the pitches that request year-end, tax-deductible holiday donations to impostor charities or fundraising events. The scammers pander to sympathetic seniors with pleas to help those in need over the holidays before convincing the victims to provide their credit card information or even social security numbers over the phone.

Our Advice

The best advice that we can give to help you ensure that you or your elderly family members don’t fall victim to holiday scams is to do your research. Before offering your help to anyone claiming to be connected to you, verify the emergency or request with a call to a trusted family member first, and never conduct a financial transaction with a caller who insists on secrecy. If you or your senior relative receives a call about making a charitable donation over the holidays, make sure to verify the number of the organization independently and ask for detailed information about the charity before sending money.

Finally, if you receive a call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent without receiving a mailed letter first, hang up immediately. The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment, threaten legal action if you refuse to pay, or require you to use a specific payment method for any debts. If you did receive a letter from the IRS stating that you owe taxes, call the agency directly at 1-800-829-1040 for more information.

Our estate planning attorneys in Corona, Orange County, and Long Beach have seen multiple seniors fall victim to these scams, and we are committed to bringing awareness to these issues to prevent any further fraud victims.


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