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Publication #FAR6004

Elderly Scams1

Rebecca McGovney and Mary Harrison2

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Almost 10 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2003, according to the Federal Trade Commission. As the caregiver to an older relative, it is important to know what type of scams target your relative and how to stop them from happening.

UF Family, Youth and Community Sciences professor Mary Harrison says many older people are targeted for scams because they are easily accessible by phone and by direct contact, tend to be isolated at home, and may find it hard to say no.

Common scams include home repair cons; sweepstakes, contests, and "free" prizes; telemarketing and investment frauds; quick fixes for health problems; as well as counterfeit charities. Be alert to the type of phone calls, mail and e-mail your relative is receiving and have your relative contact their local Better Business Bureau before giving money to any organization.

Identify theft is also a popular scam against the elderly. Help your relative protect their credit card and bank account numbers by properly disposing of bills and receipts. Advise them to never give out this type of information over the phone or through e-mail conversations.

Many times scam artists try to play on the emotions of the elderly, Harrison says. Sitting down to discuss these types of scams with your relative can keep them from becoming a victim.

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

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Federal Trade Commission. (2003). FTC releases survey of identity theft in U.S.: 27.3 million victims in past 5 years, billions in losses for businesses and consumers. Retrieved October 2007, from



This document is FAR6004, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 45. Original publication date December 2007. Revised December 2007. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Rebecca McGovney, graduate student, and Mary Harrison, professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.