Scam Artists Prey on Seniors Using a Variety of Tactics


by Vee Daniel, President and CEO, Better Business Bureau of the Upstate 

From charity scams to grandparent scams, there are a variety of ways that seniors get caught in the sticky traps of scam artists. There are many types of scams that are directed at seniors, the majority of which tug at their finances and their heartstrings. The Better Business Bureau of the Upstate advises seniors, and those caring for them, to keep an eye out for the following scams:

Bereavement Scams

Scammers target the bereaved and claim the deceased has an unpaid debt, and pressure for payment.


Phony emails appear to be from a bank or well-known business or agency. But clicking on a link or downloading a file places malware (malicious software) on the victim’s computer to steal information.

Charity Scams

Fake or questionable charities use vague, emotional appeals and names that sound like well-known charities. Charity scams often pop up after tragedies or disasters.


Criminals can manipulate caller ID to display a name or number that’s not where they’re calling from.

Grandparent Scams

A caller poses as a grandchild, claiming to be in distress in another country. For example, the caller may claim to be in jail. The caller asks the senior to send money at once.

Sweepstakes and Lotteries

In phone calls or letters, scammers claim you’ve won a sweepstakes or lottery but must pay something first, usually by wire. The scammer may offer to help pay the fee by sending a check that turns out to be fake.

Home Repair Scams

Door-to-door repair services use scare tactics and high pressure, charging high prices for shoddy work or work that’s not done.

Telemarketing Scams

Callers or robocalls (automated recorded calls) pressure seniors to decide right away to buy and sometimes refer to Medicare in the pitch. Or callers claim to need personal financial information to clear up an account.

Mystery Shopper Fake Checks

Letters claim to offer work as a mystery shopper, including a check to deposit and send part by wire to test the wire service. But the check is counterfeit, and victims lose their own money.

Timeshare Resale Scams

Calls to timeshare owners claim to have buyers lined up, and ask for money upfront to complete the deal. But no buyers are on hand, and the resale business won’t provide refunds. Regardless of which type of scam you are presented with, the Better Business Bureau warns “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Avoid becoming a victim by keeping an eye out for common signs such as people asking you to wire money or rushing you to make a quick decision. Also opt to stay away from promotions that utilize outlandish words like “exclusive,” “shocking” or “sensational”.

If you are ever presented with an offer that seems suspicious, the BBB suggests you follow the seven Golden Rules of Scams:

1. Say NO to high pressure.

2. Get it in writing, and read and understand before signing or paying.

3. Talk it over with a trusted family member or advisor.

4. Don’t give personal or financial information to callers or in response to emails you aren’t expecting.

5. Never wire money or send money by prepaid debit card to someone you don’t know.

6. Beware of callers who claim to be grandchildren in distress, and emails claiming to be from friends stranded abroad.

7. Beware of fake checks sent as part of a job or to pay fees for a prize. You should never have to pay anything up front for a prize.

I hope that you never do, but should you become the target of a scam, call the BBB Elder Fraud program hotline at (864) 240-2080. You can also email questions or concerns to The mission of the BBB Elder Fraud program is to assist seniors in recognizing and resisting fraudulent offers and possible scams.