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Frauds and Scams Used Against the Elderly

Frauds Vary Widely in the Means Used to Commit Them


There are hundreds of frauds, but offenders generally use a small subset of these against the elderly. The frauds typically occur within a few interactions.

Confidence Games

These frauds generally do not involve a product or service; instead, they include a broad array of deceitful scenarios to get cash from the elderly. The offender may pretend to be in a position of authority (e.g., a bank examiner), or otherwise trustworthy, concocting a story to get the victim to hand over cash, then disappearing.

For example, the perpetrators of "lottery scams" claim to have won the lottery but to have no bank account in which to deposit the winnings. The offender promises the victim a premium in exchange for use of his or her account. After the victim makes a "good faith" payment to the offender, the victim never hears from the offender again.


Offenders call people at home, using high-pressure tactics to solicit money for fraudulent investments, insurance policies, travel packages, charities, and sweepstakes. Fraudulent telemarketing operations are designed to limit the benefit to the customer while maximizing the profit for the telemarketer and for the highly efficient contact of a lot of potential customers.


Fraudulent prize and sweepstakes operations often mail materials to a wide audience, relying on potential victims to "self-select" by returning a postcard or calling to indicate their interest. The mailings often look official, use extensive personalization (e.g., repeating the recipient's name in the text), include claims of authenticity, have contradictory content or "double-talk," and make a seemingly low-key request for the recipient to submit a small fee.

Face-To-Face Contact

Some frauds involving products and services (e.g., home and auto repairs) require face-to-face contact at either the victim's home or a business. Alternatively, a scammer gains entry to the victim's home by posing as a utility worker and distracts the victim while an accomplice burglarizes the home.

Source:National Criminal Justice Reference Service

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