Protect yourself from scammers


According to the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging, seniors lose an estimated $2.9 billion a year to con artists perpetrating scams.

But older Americans aren't the only ones susceptible to scams. The percentage of millennials who are victims of scams is nearly double that of seniors. The Federal Trade Commission reported in 2018 that 40% of millennials surveyed ages 20-29 said they had lost money to fraud, as opposed to only 18% of seniors over the age of 69.

Scams run the gamut from shop-at-home and catalog sales to sweepstakes and lotteries, business and job opportunities, travel and timeshares, counterfeit checks, and telemarketing scams.

Here are some cons to watch out for.


Generally, internet scams work by using email, popups, or fake websites to elicit money or information, such as login credentials, from the victim. For example, an email may appear to be from a legitimate source and ask you to respond with sensitive information or open a link directly from the text. But scammers have ways of making an email or website look legitimate to trick victims into entering sensitive information or passwords.

Pop-up ads can also be used to trick someone into thinking they have a computer virus. When you click the ad, you may get tricked into paying for fake antivirus software. Alternatively, you may get connected to a fake tech or computer expert who requests sensitive information to stop the purported virus.

How to Protect Yourself

  • When you receive an email requesting personal information, check the email address and research it to see if it's legitimate.
  • Don't respond directly to an email with sensitive information, even if it appears to be from a legitimate source. If you believe it may be a legitimate request from a known source, open a new email, and input an email address you know is legitimate. You can find this by checking your address book or the company's website.
  • Don't click links directly from an email or enter your login details or other information on the page that opens. If it's from your bank or another familiar company, open a separate web page and go directly to the site yourself.
  • Use popup blockers and legitimate antivirus software. Don't click on popups.
  • Check with a younger, technologically savvy family member or friend before engaging in something online that seems suspicious.


A common telemarketing scam is when someone calls pretending to be from the IRS. The caller informs the victim they owe taxes and must pay immediately. Some scammers threaten that there's a warrant out for the victim's arrest, and the only way to avoid it is to pay up, often by wire transfer or in the form of a gift card. Scammers also try to sell fake products or services over the phone. They use tactics like offering free trials that require your credit card information or limited time offers to pressure you into a quick decision.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Most government agencies and legitimate businesses like banks won't ask for sensitive information over the phone.
  • To verify who's calling, hang up and call back the phone number that called you. If it seems legitimate, take an extra precaution. Find the contact number for the company or group online, then call it to ask if it was a valid communication.
  • Hang up or otherwise remove yourself from the situation. Con artists often impart a sense of urgency or alarm to confuse their targets and increase the likelihood their target will fall for the scam.
  • If you don't recognize a phone number, let it go to voicemail. Scammers may not leave a voicemail. If they do, you can search the number online to see if others have reported it.