Senior Scams



Phone Scams

Today alone I’ve been called three times by the same foreign sounding man implying he represents Microsoft and my computer has been infected. Because I’m a valued customer, he has called to help me with my problem. Each time I’ve played along and asked for his number in order to call him back. At that point, we always seem to lose the connection, but each time he has called me back. 

This is a classic scam. These criminals will try to coax you into going to your computer so they can help you “fix the problem.” Do not, repeat, do not give them any information such as your email address or anything else that might help them get into your computer.

The FBI recommends you be aware by looking for the following:

  • “You must act ‘now’ or the offer won’t be good.”
  • “You’ve won a ‘free’ gift, vacation, or prize.” But you have to pay for “postage and handling” or other charges.
  • “You must send money, give a credit card or bank account number, or have a check picked up by courier.” You may hear this before you have had a chance to consider the offer carefully.
  • “You don’t need to check out the company with anyone.” The callers say you do not need to speak to anyone including your family, lawyer, accountant, local Better Business Bureau, or consumer protection agency.
  • “You don’t need any written information about their company or their references.”
  • “You can’t afford to miss this ‘high-profit, no-risk’ offer.”

To minimize the number of calls you get, make sure you register with the “Do Not Call Registry.” If you want to register or verify your past registration, here is the link:

 National Do Not Call Registry 

To report any of these scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission:

Federal Trade Commission

Now if we could just do something about these people who send emails trying to get you to read their blogs.

Years ago when I was still working, I walked out onto my back deck. We lived on top of a hillside ridge and the backyard area was my sanctuary and a place I visited every morning. I especially liked the way the sunlight filtered through the beautiful tree hanging over our deck. That morning there was something very different. The tree was missing. I called the woman who lived below us and not thinking out my message abruptly said, “Where’s the tree?” My retired neighbor lady explained that the afternoon before some men had come to her door and told her they were trimming trees in the area and noticed a large tree on the other side of her driveway. They were concerned that the roots would soon cause damage to her wall and driveway. They also said that since they were in the area, they could give her a good deal on removing it. She did. “But it’s my tree,” I yelled into the phone. A while later, feeling terrible, she brought over some cookies she baked for our family, but it could not make up for my beautiful tree I so enjoyed.

I thought about that this week when my mother told me she had spoken to the wife of one of my late father’s old Navy buddies. He is ninety-one years old and was in the hospital recovering from a procedure in which a dentist had given him three new dental implants. I’m sure the dentist was wearing a mask, but it wasn’t surgical.

As people become seniors, they may or may not become more gullible, but they certainly become targets for a variety of scams, both legal and illegal. Older folks are more likely to have some savings, good credit, and time to talk to those interested in scamming them out of their money. While it’s more difficult to detect a legal scam such as cosmetic dental surgery for a ninety-year-old, I would advise a second and trusted opinion on any large financial decision. Here is some information you may find useful in detecting scams and frauds:

Fake Charities

– Always ask to see written materials about the charity and never contribute immediately.

– Since many scam artists use the names of legitimate organizations such as Red Cross or Salvation Army, should you decide to contribute, never write  a check to a person or unknown organization

– If in doubt, you can check out a charity on the following website

                                                                                        For Charities and Donors – U.S. BBB

Door-to-Door Scams

– Be wary of “free inspections” of roofs, air conditioners, etc.

– Free gifts for a few minutes of your time

– No proof of contractor license or other professional identification

– Handwritten contracts

– The “This offer is only good for today” pitch

(Believe it or not, I was once burned by one of these guys. In my case, I had called a legitimate and recommended contractor for an estimate. That guy didn’t show up, but while I was waiting, one of these door-to-door guys rang my bell. Expecting someone else, I greeted him with, “Well, your late, but come on in.” It wasn’t until he started the job did I know it wasn’t the right person. He wasn’t so much a crook as a really poor workman.)

Pyramid and Ponzi Schemes

– There is no such thing as a get-rich-quick investment

– Be wary of any plan that has you recruiting others

– Be suspicious of investing in a company that has you making a large initial investment

– Always consult someone you trust in financial matters before making an investment

(A good friend of mine once invested in a company that made bicycles supposedly being sold in China. He was doubling his investment about once a month. After a few months, most of his friends were in on it too. Fortunately, I resisted the temptation. Good thing since it was a scam in which he and his friends lost all of their money.)


– “Congratulations, you have just won _ _ _ _. I don’t think so.  

– Never buy anything or send money in order to “claim a prize.” 

– Never give a telemarketer any personal information (this should be your rule for almost anyone you speak to over the phone)

I know there are a lot more scams and frauds that use living trusts, auto sales and repairs, sweetheart deals, health care, real estate, etc. As seniors, we should be wiser, and in most cases we probably are just that. It never hurts, however, to be reminded of all the creeps out there trying to get our money.

The Most Interesting Man in the World

I recently wrote about a friend of mine, Dr. Herbert Schub, that I labeled The Most Interesting Man in the World. That blog turned out to get the most hits of any blog I’ve ever written. Thanks to those of you who come here to read this blog, and thanks to Herb for being so damn interesting!










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