A couple fills out forms with a man

It’s 2:00 a.m. and you receive a phone call.

“Grandma, do you know who this is?”

“Sarah?” you guess.

“Yes, I’m sorry to call you so late grandma, but I wrecked my car. My parents are going to kill me if I tell them. I need $500 for repairs. Could you help me out, grandma? Please, don’t tell my parents.”

You agree. After all, it’s your granddaughter. What else could you do?

And that’s how it works. You’ve been scammed.

Unfortunately, seniors are common victims of fraud. They are generally more trusting, and they may have a large ‘nest egg’ which makes them attractive and easy victims to many scam artists. Though many seniors may believe they’re too smart to fall for one of these schemes, the schemes are surprisingly common and surprisingly easy to get caught in. A study conducted on seniors in Florida and Arizona, found that about 60% of participants had been targeted in a scam and roughly a quarter fell for it.

To help you identify potential scams, here is a quick list of a few of the most common:

Telemarketing Scam

Seniors make twice as many purchases over the phone than the national average, making them common targets of telemarketing schemes. The cues are pretty basic: “You must act now, before this offer ends.” “You’ve won a free vacation. You only need to pay the taxes.” Telemarketing scams often include low-cost products and free prizes that include various fees. The telemarketers are often hesitant to reveal details about their organization, and discourage seniors from investigating. If you hear one of these cues, it’s best to say, “No thank you” and hang up.

Medicare Scam

Since every U.S. citizen over age 65 is eligible for Medicare, each one is a potential victim of Medicare fraud. Scam artists often pose as Medicare representatives in order to obtain seniors’ personal information and signatures, which allows them to then bill Medicare for services that were not received and pocket the money. It is best not to do business with door-to-door or telephone Medicare representatives, especially those who offer free services or medical equipment. Only offer your Medicare information to those who have provided you with medical care and always ask upfront which procedures Medicare will pay for and which will be out of pocket.

Sweepstakes and Lottery Scam

These scams are fairly well-known and straightforward. A scammer tells you that you’ve won the lottery and that you only need to make a small payment to unlock the prize. You may receive a large check that will appear in your account only to be rejected a few days later as a counterfeit. The scammers will then collect fees and taxes before the check bounces. If you did not enter a sweepstakes, it is unlikely that you won one. Legitimate sweepstakes are free and it is illegal to pay to receive a free prize.

Investment Scam

Many seniors have a retirement fund and savings and are searching for a way to safeguard their money for the future. This makes them easy prey for advance fee schemes, Ponzi schemes, and pyramid schemes. These schemes generally involve large returns for comparatively small investments. If an investment opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always do your homework before making an investment.

Internet Fraud

Because seniors are often less familiar with firewalls and virus protection, they may fall easily for sites that offer fake and expensive protection programs. Seniors should make sure to buy from reliable sources and companies online and be very cautious with pop-ups and programs from unknown sources that would need to be downloaded to your computer.

If you suspect you may have been a victim of fraud, don’t hesitate to contact your bank, local police, or Adult Protective Services. Though fraud is common, if seniors do their homework and watch out for these and other common scams, they’ll be well-prepared to protect themselves.