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Top elder financial scams and how to avoid them

If you are an older American or taking care of older family members, you are a prime target for the latest financial scams. Protect yourself with our tips on avoiding elder scams. 

Why are seniors the most popular target for scammers? Quite simply, they’ve accumulated more assets in their lifetime than younger generations.  

At First Bank, we are a people-centered financial institution with a passion for making great things happen for our customers. We want to protect our older customers from financial fraud, identity theft and other scams. That’s why we provide phone numbers and website information for reporting financial scams in Indiana and Illinois. If you still have questions, First Bank is here to provide personalized solutions to all of your banking needs. Call or visit one of our branches in Southeast Illinois and Southwest Indiana.  

52% of all elder abuse reports involve financial exploitation

Financial exploitation

This type of elder financial abuse occurs when someone close to the senior citizen, whether a family member, friend or hired caretaker, steals or misuses assets for their own personal gain. For example, a grandchild could take their grandparent to the bank to withdraw cash or gain access to a safe deposit box. This type of abuse can be hard to prevent, as it involves trust in a loved one or caretaker. However, if you suspect that you, or someone you know, has been the victim of financial exploitation, contact the police immediately. A sudden or drastic change in one’s financial situation is the biggest clue. To understand the scope of elder financial exploitation, the cost is estimated to be in the billions each year

Unfortunately, 65% of abusers exploiting seniors are family members

Technical-support fraud

This type of scam can target people of all ages, but seniors may be particularly vulnerable if they don’t have strong computer skills. What you need to know is that scammers can buy pop-ads that look like alerts on your computer. They usually claim that your computer has a virus or needs its virus protection software updated. There is a 1-800 number to call. Once you call it, someone posing from Microsoft or another tech company will ask permission to control your computer remotely (ostensibly to fix the issue). Once they have control of your computer, they may ask for payment to fix it. Or they can take your files hostage and demand payment in order to give you access again. For example, an Indiana woman lost $400 to this type of fraud. Here is another example from Southern Illinois. 

Investment fraud

You might call this one “an oldie but goodie.” Investment fraud existed before the Internet, and it continues to flourish in the digital age. People who feel insecure about their financial situation or want to leave money to their children or grandchildren may be particularly susceptible to investment fraud. Beware of promises that seem too good to be true, such as low or no-risk investments or guaranteed returns. Investment scammers may appeal to senior citizens based on their relationship or affinity, such as a shared religion or a personal connection with someone in the community. Current trends can also inspire investment fraud. For example, the Illinois Secretary of State issued a warning about marijuana investment scams.  

Exploitation investigations by Indiana Adult Protective Services from 2008 to 2017.

Utility scams

Look out for fraudulent phone calls that claim your electric bill is past due. Scammers try to scare and pressure their targets by claiming that their electric service will be disconnected right away if they don’t make the payment. The telltale sign is a request for payment via prepaid debit card, as reported in an article about Duke Energy customers in Indiana. Legitimate businesses do not ask for a specific type of payment. 

Romance scams

“People over 60 are targeted by romance scams for both technological and sociological reasons. First, the elderly are not digital natives—they did not come of age in the Internet society, and as such, they may trust Internet communications more than they should. Second, romance scams tend to target those who are in situations of social isolation or lacking strong emotional connections. The elderly may have fewer social connections as they get older, especially intimate connections,” says  Assistant Professor of Sociology Dr. Roderick Graham, an expert in cybercrime. 

Victims of romance scams believe they’re in a loving relationship with someone they’ve met online. That is why it can be easy to con them out of thousands of dollars. It’s also why the loss is as psychological as it is financial. For example, an 83-year-old woman from Illinois lost more than $30,000 in a romance scam and a 71-year-old Indiana man lost $80,000.

Pigeon drop scam

In this type of fraud, the victim is known as a pigeon due to their perceived gullibility. Senior citizens are popular targets. Pigeon drop scams play out in the physical world, often in parking lots, in which the scammer shows the victim a large amount of cash and promises them a share of it in exchange for a smaller amount of cash. This is similar to sweepstakes and lottery scams that play out online or over the phone. The bottom line is that you should never have to pay a sum of money in order to receive a larger sum. 

IRS impersonation scams

Like utility scams, this type of fraud usually plays out over the phone with a scammer impersonating an IRS employee and threatening consequences if a past due balance isn’t paid immediately. Look out for IRS impersonation scams during their peak season of January-April, but keep in mind that they can still happen any time of year.

Charity scams

In the wake of natural disasters, fraudsters take advantage of people’s natural generosity and desire to help. For example, Indiana’s Attorney General warned residents about Hurricane Dorian scams. The attorney general’s tips for avoiding charity scams include online research, using websites that rate charities, and more.

Puppy scams

Are you looking for a new pet? Be careful about finding a puppy online. Scammers create fake breeder websites and lure victims with cute photos. The conceit is that you pay for the puppy in advance and then it is supposed to be shipped to you. Then the scammer invents delays and requests more money for healthcare or shipping costs. For example, an Indiana grandmother lost $850 to a scam site impersonating a real breeder. 

Home improvement scams

It’s not unusual for contractors to knock on doors or leave flyers in search of new business. However, you need to vet the company with the Better Business Bureau before making any agreements or payments. Don’t give in to the pressure of making an on-the-spot decision. For example, driveway seal coating is a popular type of job for these scammers. 

Medicare fraud

With the switch from Social Security Number-based Health Insurance Claim Numbers to Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers, scammers are looking to get their hands on your Medicare ID. Then they can submit claims for fraudulent medical services in your name. Protect your new Medicare number with the same caution you take with your social security number. 

45% of leading elder abuse indicators are inappropriate/unusual bank activities

How to report elder financial scams

If you suspect that you, or another person you know, has been the victim of a financial scam targeting senior citizens, your local police station is always a good place to start. Residents of Illinois can also call the statewide, 24-hour Adult Protective Services Hotline at 1-866-800-1409, or file a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. For help with identity theft, call the state hotline at 1-866-999-5630

In Indiana, you can report a case of investment fraud by calling the Indiana Securities Commission at 1-800-223-8791 or file a complaint online. To report a case of financial exploitation, please contact Adult Protective Services at 1-800-992-6978 or visit To report a case of identity theft, please contact the Indiana Attorney General’s office at 1-800-382-5516 or visit

First Bank is Making Great Things Happen for seniors

Our warm, detailed service and conservative banking practices have earned the trust of older customers and their families. Partner with First Bank to increase your financial security with our 62+ checking accountIRA retirement savings and premium investment solutions. We use the latest security measures in modern technology, with services to protect your accounts including Online BankingMobile BankingDigital Wallet and Card Management. If your First Bank Debit Card is ever lost or stolen, or you suspect fraudulent activity in one of your First Bank accounts, call any of our branches or the after-hours line at 1-888-297-3416. To learn more about security, read our Protect Yourself tips here.

Your security and privacy matters at First Bank. Before you send us an email, please be sure that you are not sending confidential or personal information – like your account number or social security number. If you need to share this type of information with us, please call us at 1-800-538-3979.

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