Scammers Love Seniors! What to know, What to do to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Scammers love seniors! They think we are easy marks because scammers are still working with outdated and downright inaccurate stereotypes about us, e.g., that we have retirement savings, or we live alone. But as new headlines capture their attention, so do new ways of bilking us out of our money. Tragic as COVID has been for older people, for scammers, it has provided new and profitable opportunities.


It didn’t take scammers long to begin attempting to capitalize on confusion and fear over the new coronavirus. Federal, state, and local officials across the country have alerted consumers, particularly older people, to be aware of several fraud schemes tied to the virus

What you should know: COVID vaccines are free for all Americans, so, if you’re being asked to pay for a vaccine, you are being scammed. If you are asked to pay for being for be added to a vaccination waiting list or to undergo additional testing or procedures while you are being vaccinated, you are being scammed. And that’s only the beginning.

What you should do: Keep alert for news about new scams. If you belong to AARP, new ones are announced frequently. Research! Research! Research! Take nothing at face value.


Charity scams are common no matter what’s happening in the news, but fraudsters follow the headlines, and Covid is one way for them to claim they’re gathering donations for families that have been affected by the virus in some way.

What you should know:
Some sham charities succeed by mimicking the real thing. Like genuine nonprofits, they reach you via telemarketing, direct mail, email, and door-to-door solicitations. They might make appeals on social media and create well-designed websites with deceptive names. (Cybersecurity firm DomainTools noted a huge jump in website registrations with the words “Ukraine” and “Ukrainian” in the days after Russia’s invasion of that country, for example.)

What you should do:

  1. Before you give to any charity, do the research necessary to verify that the organization is legitimate. A good place to start is by checking the lists run by watchdog groups such as CharityWatch, CharityNavigator, and the Wise Giving …
  2. You can help avoid falling victim to a fake charity scam by asking the right questions when an organization or person asks for donations and by recognizing some of the tell-tale signs of this popular scam.
  3. Fake charity scams prey on your goodwill and generosity. Scammers might pretend to be representatives of a legitimate charity. They’ll call you, email you, or approach you on the street for donations. When you give, it’s likely your money will end up in the scammers’ pockets and not with the charity you were hoping to support
  4. Other scammers will make up their own charity names. They might even set up fake websites that look much like the sites run by legitimate charitable organizations. The goal, again, is to get you to donate not to a real charity, but to them.
  5. Fake charity scams can be lucrative because so many people do want to support legitimate charities. According to Giving USA, U.S. residents donated a record  $471 billion to charities in 2020.
  6. Never give donations through cash, gift cards, or by wire transfer of funds.


These scams involve fraudsters who call or email posing as professional cleaners or similar service providers, offering to sanitize homes or businesses. While there are businesses that specialize in this service, they do not randomly call potential customers out of the blue.

What you should know:
Reputable businesses don’t engage in hard selling or pressure tactics, particularly if they claim to want to help during a difficult time when your home or place of business is a wreck.

What you should do:
Ask for a phone number and call back. Ask for a website and read it carefully. Research industry recommendations to see if this company is on the list. Check with the Better Business Bureau.


Many businesses have attempted to sell their existing products as treatments or even cures for COVID-19.

What you should know:
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have issued warnings against at least seven companies that the agencies say have been misbranding products as treatments or preventives against COVID-19. Products include teas, essential oils, and colloidal silver.

What you should do:
Check the FTC and FDA websites for their lists of such companies.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) | USAGov

Call: 1-202-326-2222 Toll-free number 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) TTY 1-866-653-4261
Write: Main address 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, DC 20580
Have a question? Ask a real person any government-related question for free. They will get you the answer or let you know where to find what you are looking for.

Federal Drug Administration (FDA)  
1-888-INFO-FDA 1-888-463-6332)

Write: Food and Drug Administration / 10903 New Hampshire Ave / Silver Spring, MD 20993-0002


Many schemes against seniors are performed over e-mail, the phone, and through door-to-door advertising. They may take the form of alleged credit card offers, charity donation requests, home improvement offers, investment opportunities, banking and wire transfers, insurance offers, health products, and sweepstakes and contests, to name a few.

Believe it or not, this list only scratches the surface. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Scammers have the will and, as you can see, have found or invented plenty of ways.