What are the warning signs of financial scams targeting older individuals?

If you or someone you know has been targeted by a scam artist who is trying to steal money or personal information, you’re not alone. According to the enate Special Committee on Aging, older Americans lose an estimated $2.9 billion annually to fraud and exploitation, a number that is probably substantially underreported.1

Most scams start with a call, an email, a text, or an official-looking letter that appears to be from a government agency or a legitimate company. Sometimes the scam artist will go door-to-door soliciting business or donations to charity.

Scam artists are very good at gaining the trust of well-meaning people by convincingly impersonating someone authoritative, knowledgeable, or trustworthy — such as an IRS agent, a tech repair person, or even a relative. They play on your sympathy or make convincing threats to pressure you to go along with a scam. “Send money or provide personal information right now,” they say, “if you want to help someone or prevent something bad from happening.”

Here are some typical scenarios:

  • IRS scam: “You owe back taxes and penalties. Send payment immediately via a wire transfer, or you will be arrested.”
  • Sweepstakes scam: “Congratulations, you’ve won a prize! To collect it, provide us with your bank account number so we can deposit a check.”
  • Grandparent scam: “Hi Grandma, it’s me. Don’t you recognize my voice? I’ve been in an accident and need money for car repairs. Send gift cards, and don’t tell anyone because I’m embarrassed.”
  • Home repair scam: “I was just doing some work down the street for your neighbor, Bob, and I saw that you need some shingles replaced. I can do that for half the price I usually charge if you pay me in cash today.”

If you are targeted, never give out personal information or send money. You don’t need to make a quick decision. Call a friend, a relative, or the police for advice. Report the scam immediately to a fraud hotline such as the Senate Committee’s toll-free hotline, (855) 303-9470.

1 U.S Senate Special Committee on Aging, 2019


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Wellspring Financial Partners, LLC does not provide tax or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances.

To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances.

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