Protecting Seniors From Elder Fraud

Protecting Your Identity

As identity theft remains a persistent problem, the risk is especially acute for senior citizens. It is estimated that elder fraud schemes targeting senior citizens account for more than $3 billion in losses annually. Elder fraud is particularly devastating as older adults may not be able to earn back stolen assets or money.

Several factors combine to make seniors the most vulnerable group for identity theft. First, their generation tends to have substantial financial savings, own their own home, and have good credit, making them profitable targets for thieves. Second, seniors may be less comfortable with online banking or similar technologies, which means many people assume incorrectly that they’re at a lower risk for identity theft.

The most common types of elder fraud that seniors experience include imposters opening bank and credit accounts in their name, as well as payday and car loans. As with younger victims, personal information is stolen and used to create fraudulent accounts that fund illicit purchases and leave a financial and administrative mess for the victims to sort out.

Other common scams that target seniors primarily include fake technical support or charities, Medicare or Social Security, IRS, or bank official impersonations. These calls are designed to keep people on the phone long enough to create enough urgency that the victim shares personal financial data that enables fraud.

Some schemes even take advantage of potential emotional vulnerabilities. For example, romance scams involve a fraudster posing as an interested romantic partner, capitalizing on a senior’s desire for companionship. A fraud might also include someone posing as a relative, typically a child or grandchild, with a request for an urgent and immediate financial need.

Reducing the Risk of Elder Fraud

As with victims of all ages, there are a few warning signs of potential identity theft or fraud that seniors need to watch out for. These include debt collection calls for accounts or loans you didn’t open or apply for, as well as bank and credit card statements that show unusual or unauthorized activity.

Preventative Measures To Reduce the Risk of Elder Fraud

  • Review bank statements and your credit reports consistently to identify potential problems. Money Management allows you to connect multiple accounts for a complete view of your spending across credit, debit, and savings accounts.  Additionally, you can enable Card Control to send instant notifications whenever a debit card transaction or withdrawal occurs, and turn your card off if you notice suspicious activity.
  • Avoid giving out personal information over the phone. As a reminder, TowneBank will never ask for your personal information via text, phone, or email. When in doubt, call your banker.  
  • Understand that government agencies will contact people by mail, not by phone.
  • Pay attention to your incoming mail. A sudden increase in bills or pre-approved offers may indicate additional accounts have been opened illicitly.
  • Store financial documents securely to prevent someone inside your home from stealing the documents or information.
  • A credit freeze may offer additional peace of mind. By preventing lenders from accessing your credit history, you reduce the risk of imposters opening fraudulent accounts in your name.
  • Resist the pressure to act quickly to a request for personal or financial information. Be cautious of unsolicited calls, mailings, or door to door services.
  • Update antivirus and malware software regularly.

As with all types of identity theft, knowledge is power. It is important to familiarize yourself with telltale signs of elder fraud so you can help prevent identity fraud against yourself or someone you love.


  • Senior fraud, also known as elder fraud, includes financial scams and/or abuse that target older people, usually aged 65 or above. They are targeted because they tend to have more in savings, and may be less comfortable with online banking or similar technologies.
  • Be sure to review bank statements or credit reports regularly to identify problems. It's also important to never give out important account information over the phone or via email - such as account numbers, social security numbers, online banking credentials, etc.

    As a reminder, TowneBank will never ask you for your online banking credentials.

    For more tips, review our article here.
  • According to the FTC, recent sweepstakes scams have targeted seniors where they are contacted and informed that they won a phony sweepstakes and trick people into paying a fee in order to collect their prize.

    Other scams include Medicare scams whereby criminals pose as a Medicare representative to get older people to give our their personal information.

    Recently the FBI warned about a funeral and funeral scam where scammers obtain a widow or widower's information from an obituary and claim the deceased had an outstanding debt with them.

    You can learn how to prevent becoming a victim of these kinds of scams in our latest article here.
    1. If you think you've become a victim of a scam, we encourage you to first update all of your online banking login credentials.
    2. Then, contact your bankerand inform them of the potential scam.
    3. You may also want to contact all three credit reporting agencies: Experien, Equifax and Transunion and implement a fraud alert for your name and SSN.

The information provided is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice or recommendations for any specific individual, business, or circumstance. TowneBank cannot guarantee that it is accurate, up to date, or appropriate for your situation. Financial calculators are provided for illustrative purposes only. You are encouraged to consult with a qualified attorney or financial advisor to understand how the law applies to your particular circumstances or for financial information specific to your personal or business situation.

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