Between 2021 and 2022, rates of elder fraud increased by 84 percent according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Tech support scams were the most common type of scam, while investment and cryptocurrency scams saw the biggest surge. Also common among senior victims are non-delivery, romance, grandparent, and government imposter scams. Find out more about these types of scams to be better able to spot them.

Older Americans and caregivers, there’s an unfortunate trend to be aware of: Rates of elder fraud are continuing to rise.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) 2022 Elder Fraud Report, rates of fraud committed against Americans over 60 increased 84 percent from 2021 to 2022.

With more than 88,000 senior victims reporting incidents of fraud in 2022, the total loss resulted in over $3 billion.

Other news stories paint detailed pictures of this same trend.

With rates of elder fraud continuing to climb, it’s important to be aware of the most frequently used schemes. 

Common scams targeting older adults 

Criminals run all kinds of ploys against people of all ages in hopes of pocketing money (aka committing financial fraud) or stealing and using people’s personal information (known as identity theft or identity fraud).

However, older generations often have more equity and savings than younger ones, making them prime targets for scammers looking to score big.

Thanks to data from the FBI’s report, we’re pinpointing which scams criminals most often aim at older adults to help you stay in the know. 

Tech support scams 

In 2022, older adults filed more than 17,800 complaints of tech support crimes, putting them at the top of the charts by a landslide.

In these schemes, a scammer typically reaches out by phone to alert you of a “software update” that your phone, computer, or other device needs, or of a “software problem” that they can help resolve.

The caller impersonates a representative from a tech company, and may even use spoofing technology to have caller ID on your phone support that.

Throughout the call, they may ask for your personal information, like email log-in credentials or Social Security number (SSN). They may demand payment for their services outright, often by way of peer-to-peer payment apps, wire transfer, or cryptocurrency — all modes of payment that are harder to recover from fraud than credit card payments.

You could even be instructed to download software to fix the “problem”, but it contains spyware or malware that tracks your computer activity or records your keystrokes.

Pro Tips

Red flags of tech support scams

  • Unsolicited outreach. Software companies will not initiate conversations with you or offer support services that you didn’t request.

  • Pop-up web pages saying that your computer is in danger. This is another way in which tech support scams are run: You may suddenly see a pop-up page with a shocking message like “your computer is infected.” The pop-up prompts you to call a certain number for help, which leads you directly to a scammer.

  • You’re pressured to give away sensitive information or to pay immediately. A tech support service would not require you to divulge sensitive information or pay on the spot. 

Investment and cryptocurrency scams 

The rate of investment scams targeting seniors increased a whopping 300 percent from 2021 to 2022, in large part due to the increase in cryptocurrency scams.

There are a host of different investment scams including pyramid schemes, Ponzi schemes, market manipulation fraud, and phony real estate investing scams.

These often start with the scammer initiating contact online. Over time, they build a rapport and establish trust, then convince victims to make a fake “low-risk, high-yield” investment.

The person who actually pockets the investment? The scammer, of course.

Pro Tips

Red flags of investment scams

  • Out-of-the-blue messages. The majority of investment scams are trust-based, typically established online through social media messages. Be cautious of messages from strangers online even if they sound friendly, kind, or believable.

  • Low-risk, unusually high-yield investments. If you’re pitched an investment opportunity that is “guaranteed,” “no-risk,” or that promises remarkable returns, it’s likely a scam.

  • Pressure to invest. Legitimate investment advisors or investment-savvy friends will not pressure you to invest your savings.

  • Unsolicited cryptocurrency investment opportunities. Though some cryptocurrency investing is legitimate, the rates of cryptocurrency scams are skyrocketing. Do not proceed with any random and unexpected investment opportunities involving cryptocurrency.  

Non-delivery scams 

With the rise of online shopping and social media has come an influx of non-delivery scams.

These schemes are fairly straightforward: Scammers advertise fake products or services online, accept your payment, and then don’t deliver what was purchased (or send a poorly made knockoff instead).

They’re also, unfortunately, quite effective, with close to 8,000 incidents of non-delivery fraud reported to the FBI from seniors alone in 2022.

Pro Tips

How to avoid non-delivery scams

Romance and grandparent scams  

One encouraging update: Rates of romance and grandparent scams — both considered “confidence scams” — fell slightly between 2021 and 2022. Still, they impacted thousands of older Americans.

Both of these scams pull at the heartstrings of victims and rely on a phony sense of trust.

Romance scams typically originate on social media, dating apps, or elsewhere online. A seasoned bad actor will initiate a conversation and foster an online relationship. After establishing that bond, suddenly they need money for an emergency.

In a grandparent scheme, a scammer calls an older adult out of the blue and pretends to be a family member — often a grandchild — in trouble.

They use scare tactics and demand that money be transferred immediately to help. By using generative AI, or artificial intelligence, some criminals are even able to clone the voice of a loved one, exacerbating the risk and believability of these scams.

Pro Tips

How to avoid romance and grandparent scams

  • Know that they’re a threat. Knowledge is power when it comes to confidence scams. Knowing that these threats exist will help sound alarm bells should you or a loved one be targeted by one.

  • Never send money to strangers, especially someone you haven’t met in person or someone who calls out of the blue (especially via a payment method that’s not protected from fraud). 

Government impersonation scams 

Imagine your phone rings, showing that it’s the “IRS” calling. When you answer, an agent is on the line and says you’re delinquent on your tax payment from last year.

Luckily, they can easily help you resolve the issue and avoid accruing additional penalties — all they need is your Social Security number to verify your account and your bank account routing number to submit your payment.

But it’s not the IRS: It’s a scammer.

These schemes can happen via phone call, email, or text, and can involve all sorts of “government agencies,” from the Social Security Administration and Medicare to local or state municipal offices.

But know that government agencies will usually only contact you by USPS mail.

Pro Tips

How to avoid government scams

  • Hang up or don’t reply if you receive outreach from someone claiming to be with the government. Then, contact the agency directly using the official number found on their website to inquire if the issue was legitimate.

  • Make it a general rule to never provide your personal or banking information to someone who reaches out unsolicited, even if they claim to be with a government organization. 

What to do if you’ve been scammed 

If you suspect that you or an older loved one has fallen victim to a scam, take a deep breath. You’re not alone, and there are proactive steps you can take.

If you’re a member of Allstate Identity Protection, call us using the number on your account dashboard. Our specialists are on hand 24/7 to talk you through next steps. If your identity is compromised, they can start the restoration process immediately.

Though these scams are currently the most common and impactful among seniors, there are others that pose a threat. Remember to keep tabs on our alerts and visit our Content Hub to stay in the loop on the latest scams and identity threats, no matter your age.