Read more about our Truly Amazing Woman of the Month

Listen to the podcast on Inkandescent Radio 5 Scams Plaguing the Elderly: What you can do

"Protecting the elderly from financial abuse requires you to point out some common scams they might encounter," shares Rita Cheng, CFP®. "Warning signs, such as calls from creditors, sudden expensive purchases, or mail that piles up and is left unopened, indicate that something might be wrong."


How to Protect Your Elders from Financial Fraud

A Note from Marguerita Cheng, CFP® — On today’s episode of “Margaritas with Marguerita,” we talk about a topic near and dear to my heart: caring for our elderly.

Here’s the story: Aging adults make especially easy targets for financial scams. Sadly, according to a recent MetLife report, financial abuse costs elder Americans at least $2.9 billion each year. To best protect your loved ones, I’m going to share 5 of the most common types of scams with a teaching tip to help you be aware of the warning signs so you can caution and protect the elders in your life.

Please scroll down to read my Q&A with my producer and publicist Hope Katz Gibbs.

Hope: Let’s get right to the meat of the issue and talk about the first of the five scams plaguing the elderly — the Medicare Scam.

Rita: Medicare schemes that target seniors happen all too often. It can start with scammers pretending to be Medicare representatives or fraudsters posing as insurance agents to gather personal information. Because health insurance is often confusing, some people are too willing to share more than they should smooth out what they believe are medical billing issues. If an insurance thief gets personal details, they can use it to bill Medicare for fake services and pocket the money.

Hope: And what’s, is the Teaching tip?

RITA: When protecting the elderly from financial abuse, advise them to keep their medical information private and understand Medicare insurance. Remind them to limit who they share their Medicare number, Social Security card, or other personal information with.

Hope: The second scam to be on the lookout for is the Funeral Scam.

RITA: Funeral scams prey on widows and widowers. These scam artists read obituaries and make a point to attend the funerals, often posing as a debt collector claiming there’s an unpaid debt to prompt payment from a grieving family member. Another funeral scam to watch out for involves the funeral homes and instances where they will over-charge customers for services. To catch these, look for a significant increase in services and goods’ prices since these might be fraudulent charges.

Hope: And what’s, is the Teaching tip?

RITA: Shop around for funeral services and pay special attention to payment details. If you notice excessive charges, speak up about them to avoid being taken advantage of during the grieving process.

Hope: The third scam to be on the lookout for is the Affinity Scam.

RITA: Right! Typically, this scam is a form of investment fraud where a caller can pretend to be a member of the same religious, career, ethnic or community-based group to connect with individuals. With the affinity scam, protecting the elderly from financial abuse isn’t easy. The scammer uses the common ground to build trust and then convinces them the investment is legitimate. Even more, it’s difficult for law enforcement to identify affinity scams because the groups have a tight-knit structure. Additionally, instead of reporting the fraud, the victim attempts to work things out with the group. If they’re not careful, they can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Hope: And what is the Teaching tip?

RITA: The teaching tip here is to encourage discussions about investment opportunities with you or a trusted financial advisor.

Hope: The fourth scam to be on the lookout for is Sweetheart Scam.

RITA: Typically occurring via the internet, sweetheart scams target victims using fake profiles on dating sites and social media to lure a lonely senior through the promise of a romantic relationship. This often turns into outright blackmail, and they may eventually extort them for money.

Hope: And what is the Teaching tip?

RITA: It’s easy for an elderly widow to feel lonely and desire affection, but introducing your loved one to community groups and senior centers is an excellent social outlet and much safer than building online relationships.

Hope: The fifth and final scam you’ll be talking about today is the dreaded and all-too-common Internet Scam.

RITA: Yes. The reality is that seniors are generally less familiar with how the internet works, so this makes it more likely that they’ll become a victim to fake claims of virus infections or online scams. By not having a basic understanding of online security, scammers find it easy to trick elders into downloading bogus antivirus programs in exchange for a fee. Sometimes, the fraudster requests a telephone number to talk on the phone. Hearing a real voice on the other end of the line can instill a false sense of trust, and this may cause them to give up their sensitive financial information too freely.

Hope: And the Teaching tip is …

RITA: Explain the fundamentals of internet safety. Remind them that it’s unusual for a company to reach out and request credit card information or bank account numbers online.

Hope: So, what is the bottom line?

RITA: Protecting the elderly from financial abuse requires you to point out some common scams they might encounter. Warning signs, such as calls from creditors, sudden expensive purchases, or mail that piles up and is left unopened, indicate that something might be wrong.

For online scams, sharing at least a basic understanding of internet safety can help protect them. The more information you can give your parents, aging neighbors, and other seniors, the better off they’ll be. If you believe someone has become a financial scam victim, don’t hesitate to step in and take action.

Hope: Thank you so much for sharing this essential information on today’s episode of Margaritas with Marguerita: 15 minutes (or less) of financial advice to help women flex their financial muscles.

For more information and a recap of today’s show, visit Rita’s website: /

Also, check out all of the episodes on

Questions? Feel free to reach out to Rita at