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    Tips for spotting — and stopping — scams that target seniors

    By Christine Clarridge,


    Older people who suddenly have a new best friend, a new sweetheart or a contractor they trust more than anyone else in the world could be falling for some of most common scams targeting seniors in King County.

    Why it matters: Reports to Adult Protective Services in Washington of sexual or physical abuse, neglect or financial exploitation tripled in the last decade, King County prosecutors have said .

    Threat level: Older Americans lost more than $3 billion in financial scams and fraud last year, according to the FBI .

    • The average loss was $33,915 per person.

    Driving the news: June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month and Saturday is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day .

    How it works: Elder abuse can be physical, emotional and verbal, but financial scams are the most reported type in King County, said Ulrey.

    • "Best friend" or sweetheart scenarios — in which the con person scoops up a lonely older person, separates them from others to the point that they become a "cult of two" and then takes their money — are common.
    • Another typical scam involves extremely likable contractors who promise to address an older person's home maintenance needs.
    • The perpetrator asks for more and more money, and the victim is reluctant to say no because they hold out hope that the work will actually be completed, said Ulrey.

    The big picture: Other financial crimes that target elders, according to the FBI's Elder Fraud Report , include phishing, personal data breaches and investment scams.

    What to do: BBB , AARP and Washington state's Adult Protective Services have information on how to recognize and report elder abuse.

    • More options for reporting elder abuse and scams include local police, the FTC , all 3 credit bureaus (Experian: 1-888-397-3742, TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289, and Equifax: 1-888-766-0008) and the Consumer Protection Division of the Washington Attorney General's Office .
    • Other steps can be taken to protect the person, like changing passwords and bank accounts and notifying banks of the potential for fraud.
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