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Avoiding elder fraud and financial abuse

Yearly, millions of older adults lose billions of dollars as a result of financial fraud—they’re considered prime targets because they’re generally less savvy with social media privacy settings, likely to answer calls from unknown callers, open junk mail rather than discard, and they live off their savings.1 
About 75% of financial fraud is carried out by someone close to the victim—a family member or friend, and it’s estimated that only 1 in 44 instances of financial abuse are actually reported.2

Examples of elder fraud

It’s important to know the types of elder fraud and financial abuse, the signs to look for, and how to avoid becoming a victim. Keep a lookout for these popular scams.3

Sweepstakes or lottery 
You’re contacted by phone or online about a prize you’ve won, but first you must pay a fee, cover taxes, or send money or gift cards. 
Tech support 
A pop-up message or prompt on your computer screen says your device is damaged. When you call the indicated support number, you may be asked to give remote access to your computer, at which point the scammer may go through your files or demand you pay to have your computer repaired. 
 “Grandchild” in need 
You get a late-night call from someone posing as your grandchild claiming to need money immediately for a medical or other emergency. 
Fake user profiles are created on social media platforms to connect with you to try and manipulate or use your loneliness to get money. 
Social Security or Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 
Someone claiming to be a Social Security or IRS staffer contacts you and threatens your benefits or to take legal action if you don’t provide personal details or send money. 
Scammers may call to offer vaccinations, COVID tests, or supplies pretending to be from Medicare or the Department of Health and Human Services to acquire your money or personal information. 

How to avoid elder fraud and financial abuse

It’s always important to be cautious and take steps to avoid becoming a target of fraud or financial abuse, but it gets even more important as you get older. Here’s how to avoid becoming a victim of senior fraud or abuse. 

  • Never give out personal information over the phone, by email, or text message. 
  • Consider adding a “trusted contact,” a close relative or friend, to your financial accounts so they can monitor your transactions and look for signs of fraud or abuse. 
  • Slow down and take your time. Many scams rely on fear and creating a sense of urgency to get you to make sudden decisions. 
  • If someone calls you about a special offer or requesting a charitable donation, ask for written materials to review before deciding. 
  • Work with trusted businesses and research unfamiliar companies. A good place to start is the Better Business Bureau

How to report elder fraud or financial abuse

If you think you’ve become a victim of fraud or abuse, report it to the police immediately or contact the Adult Protective Services program in your area. The professionals you reach out to are responsible for investigating your concerns. If your concerns are life-threatening, call 911. 

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1. "Protecting Seniors from Financial Exploitation," FINRA, March 17, 2022, 2. Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team, “Financial Elder Abuse,” Nursing Home Abuse Justice, June 24, 2021, 3. Genevieve Waterman,"Avoiding Scams and Fraud for Older Adults: The Top 5 Financial Scams Targeting Older Adults," National Council on Aging, July 27, 2022,

This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.

Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general and educational in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Tax laws and regulations are complex and subject to change, which can materially impact investment results. Fidelity cannot guarantee that the information herein is accurate, complete, or timely. Fidelity makes no warranties with regard to such information or results obtained by its use, and disclaims any liability arising out of your use of, or any tax position taken in reliance on, such information. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.