Elder Abuse & Social Security Scams

Elder abuse in the form of fraud and scams are serious issues that affect many older adults. We discuss four articles below from the FBI, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), and The People’s Law Library of Maryland, which serve as helpful resources in identifying fraud and scams and legal information for victims of these crimes.

Fraud against the elderly can take shape in many ways. Oftentimes, criminals attempt to take advantage of older adults because they are frequently trusting, have financial savings, own a home, possess good credit, and may be less likely to report fraud. The FBI identifies the following list as some of the most common scams directed at the elderly, which can be reviewed in greater detail in the following article.

  • Romance scam
  • Tech support scam
  • Grandparent scam
  • Government impersonation scam
  • Sweepstakes/Charity/Lottery scam
  • Home repair scam
  • TV/Radio scam
  • Family/Caregiver scam

Social Security scams are the most commonly reported type of fraud and scam. It is important to be informed of the latest schemes to properly identify scam artists when they are attempting to communicate with you. The CFPB identifies five common red flags to determine whether certain types of Social Security-related correspondence are legitimate or a scam, including:

  • Threat of arrest or legal action
  • Emails or texts containing personally identifiable information
  • Misspellings and grammar errors
  • Payment requests via gift, pre-paid card, cash, or wire transfer
  • Offers to increase benefits in exchange for payment

It is also helpful to be aware of who is most likely to exploit the elderly. NAPSA identifies unique methods used by people with certain relationships to older adults and breaks these people up into three groups – strangers, “professionals,” and family members and trusted others, such as in-home care providers. Below are a few ways in which these three groups can potentially take advantage of the elderly:


  • Lottery and sweepstakes scams
  • Home repair scams
  • Utility company scams


  • Predatory lending
  • Phishing emails
  • Medicare scams

Family Members/Trusted Others

  • Misuse of Power of Attorney privilege
  • Opening joint bank accounts
  • In-home care providers taking advantage of clients

There are resources available to protect seniors who believe they may be a victim of fraud or scam. One such resource is the Maryland Senior Legal Helpline courtesy of The People’s Law Library of Maryland. This is a free telephone service for Maryland residents over the age of 60, with attorneys who provide legal advice, brief legal services, and referrals to other lawyers and public and private agencies.

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