Critter Corner: How Can Seniors Protect Themselves from Becoming Victims of Fraud

Hayek 1Dear Hayek,

My mother lives alone and is very trusting. She typically picks up the phone when it rings and has conversations with whoever is calling because she is lonely and loves to chat. I worry that she could easily fall prey to a scam. What is some advice I can provide to her to help her be more vigilant when it comes to con artists and scammers?

Thanks for your help!

Bea Moore-Kayreful

Dear Bea,

It is unfortunate the scammers often prey on older adults. Below are some suggestions you can offer your mother, if someone should call that could be a scammer:

  • Verify, then trust: Trusting strangers is a mistake that many seniors make. Explain to your mother that she shouldn’t feel pressured by someone who offers her an opportunity, for instance, and asks her to make an immediate decision, giving her no chance to check out the salesperson, firm, or opportunity itself. Instead, she should be sure that she understands all the risks involved before she ever parts with money.
  • Con artists are not friends: A favorite tactic of scammers is to develop false bonds of friendship. They know that some seniors are eager to have someone to talk to on the phone, even if the caller is a complete stranger. Suggest to your mother that she should never be swayed by offers of unrelated advice and assistance by strangers who call. In all likelihood, their efforts are to develop a sense of friendship to win a person’s confidence and take their money.
  • Don’t be overly accommodating: Older generations were taught to be courteous at all times, whether someone visits them in person or contacts them by phone. Con artists often take advantage of overly-accommodating seniors, exploiting their good manners to get at their money. Gently explain that strangers who call and ask for money should be regarded with the utmost caution. The best response is to hang up the phone.
  • Never judge a person’s integrity by how they sound: Senior citizens who fall prey to a con artist often explain that the con artist sounded like such a nice person. Con artists often combine sales pitches with extremely polite manners, knowing that many older people may equate good manners with personal integrity. No matter how caring or well-meaning a person sounds, explain to your mom that they could still be a con artist.
  • Watch out for salespeople who prey on fears. Playing on these fears of running out of money, scammers often pitch schemes that can help avoid this from happening. Fear, similar to greed, can cloud people’s good judgment and lead them into falling for a scam.

Some senior citizens fail to report that they have been victimized for fear that they will be judged incapable of handling their own affairs. Con artists count on these sensitivities to prevent or delay the elderly from reporting the scam to authorities. If you or a loved one is the victim of a scam, be sure to report it immediately to the Federal Trade Commission at

Hope this is helpful,


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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