Stop the Scam: Resources to Prevent and Report Elder Fraud

By: Madison Albrecht, Elder Law & Disability Law Clinic Student, Spring 2024

Elder fraud is an ever-present and growing threat to the financial security of millions of Americans. While anyone can be targeted through fraudulent schemes, elderly individuals are often the most targeted population and have experienced the highest total loss amount.[1] In 2022 alone, $3.1 billion were defrauded from individuals over the age of 60 with an average of $35,000 per victim.[2] In Virginia, 2,447 individuals over the age of 60 reported a loss of over $60 million.[3] While the loss per person varies widely, individuals impacted by these fraudulent schemes can lose thousands of dollars from their life savings, retirement accounts, or even their homes.  However, these numbers don’t account for many victims of elder fraud who fail to report the crime because they are scared, embarrassed or not sure who to call.[4] Fraud schemes targeting elderly Americans are a top priority of law enforcement, including the DOJ Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force, which coordinates agencies and investigations throughout the United States and around the world.[5] 

What Are Some of the Common Scams?

The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to be aware of some of the common scams so that you understand what to look out for.These schemes can occur through phone calls, voicemails, email, text messages, or mail.[6]  While fraudulent call centers are the most prevalent, in recent years, investment fraud has also been on the rise.[7]  Scam callers may pose as technical support, government agencies, lotteries officials, financial advisors, or even family members in an effort to obtain money or information.[8] 

  • Government Imposter – Scammers may claim to be part of a government agency such as the Social Security Administration, IRS, or local law enforcement. Caller ID spoofing may also be used so that the call appears to be actually coming from the government.  Some scammers pose as a government agency or police department collecting overdue taxes, investigating a crime, or calling about missed jury duty. They may threaten jail time if the person does not pay immediately, often in the form of gift cards, cryptocurrency, or wire payments.[9] Other scams, involve fraudulent calls claiming that the individual’s social security number was involved in suspicious activity and tell them to immediately withdraw money or move it for “safekeeping” before their accounts are frozen.[10]
  • Impersonating Financial Institutions Callers will ask for financial information while posing as a bank, credit card company, or other financial institutions claiming that the person’s account has a problem. Scammers will request information over the phone such as account numbers, financial records, passwords, verification codes, or social security number to that the problem can be resolved. They may also claim that the account has been hacked and insist that they move their money to a different “safe” bank account or ask individuals to pay money to fix the problem.[11]
  • Grandparent Scam – Some scammers pose as a grandchild or other family member who needs immediate help to pay medical bills, post bail, pay rent, or travel home from a foreign location. They may also pretend to be someone calling on behalf of a family member who is in trouble and demand that they transfer money for an emergency without telling other family members.[12]
  • Tech Support Scams – Scammers will pose as technical support and send an email, popup message, text message, or phone call claiming that their computer has a virus, was hacked, or has another problem that needs to be fixed immediately. Oftentimes, scammers will pretend to be from a legitimate technical support company to gain access and control over the computer or will charge a large amount of money to “fix” a non-existent problem.[13]
  • Fake Lottery/Sweepstakes – A scammer will pose as a lottery representative, government official, or lawyer and reach out to say that a person won the lottery, sweepstakes, or some other prize. But, before they can obtain their winnings, they are told that they must first pay taxes, shipping, or fees and ultimately never receive anything in return. [14]
  • Investment FraudA caller will reach out to offer a once in a lifetime investment opportunity that seems too good to be true. They pressure seniors to immediately invest large amounts of money in exchange for a big return with little to no risk.[15]
  • Romance Scams – After meeting online through social media or a dating website, the scammer will pretend to fall in love but is unable meet in person. After gaining trust, they will eventually ask for money either to visit, pay for an emergency, or participate in a great investment.[16]
  • Phishing Scams – Using text messages and emails, scammers are sending links that appear to be from a retailer, financial institution, or government agency but actually capture personal information or contain computer viruses.[17]

What Should You Look Out For?

Be careful of any call or other communication that claims there is an immediate problem or a prize that requires you to do something immediately. Don’t feel rushed to act right away. Scammers will often try to get you to give them money or information before you have time to think about it or talk to a trusted friend or family member. They may threaten arrest or claim that you will lose your money if you don’t act now. Don’t give out personal, financial, or healthcare information to unverified people or businesses – even if they claim to be from an official institution.  Remember, legitimate government agencies and businesses will not demand immediate payment through prepaid cards, cryptocurrency, or wire transfers. [18]

What Resources Are Available?

National Elder Fraud Hotline

The Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime has a hotline to report suspected elder fraud and to receive assistance directly from a case manager who can help individuals navigate federal, state, and local resources.[19] 

  • Call 833–372–8311 (Monday – Friday 10am-6pm).

Federal Trade Commission

The FTC offers extensive online resources on how to avoid potential scams, free publications and printed brochures, and a link to report fraud.


State and Local Efforts

  • On April 4, 2024, the Virginia Safe Senior Act was signed into law to encourage banks to do more to identify and prevent elder fraud and exploitation.[20] The law will develop training for employees of financial institutions to be able to identify and report their concerns to law enforcement or trusted family members [21]
  • The Virginia TRIAD is a cooperative program between law enforcement agencies, senior citizens, and senior organizations throughout Virginia.[22] It was created to reduce crimes against the elderly through collaborative efforts to provide critical resources and awareness. The Virginia Office of the Attorney General provides online resources, brochures, and important phone numbers for seniors.[23] Reach out to local law enforcement in your area to report a crime or to ask questions about available resources.

[1] Federal Bureau of Investigation, Elder Fraud Report, 3-4, 12 (2022), [“FBI Elder Fraud Report 2022”].

[2] Id. at 4-5.

[3] Id. at10-11.

[4] U.S. Dept. of Just., Off. for Victims of Crime, National Elder Fraud Hotline, [“National Elder Fraud Hotline”].

[5] U.S. Dept. of Just., Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force, (last updated Mar. 9, 2023), [“Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force”]

[6] Id.

[7] FBI Elder Fraud Report 2022, 3.

[8] U.S. Dept. of Just., Elder Justice Initiative, Financial Exploitation, [“Financial Exploitation”]

[9] Id.

[10] Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force; Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, Scam Alert,

[11]Financial Exploitation

[12] Transnational Elder Fraud Strike;

[13] Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force

[14] Id.

[15] Financial Exploitation

[16] Id.

[17] Federal Bureau of Investigation, Spoofing and Phishing,

[18] Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Advice, How to Avoid a Scam,; FBI Elder Fraud Report 2022, 22.

[19]  National Elder Fraud Hotline

[20] Dave Ress, Youngkin signs bill to crack down on elder abuse and exploitation, The Daily Progress (Apr. 7, 2024),

[21] Susan Hogan & Katie Leslie, Virginia General Assembly passes law to strengthen reporting of elder financial exploitation, NBC 4 Washington (Mar. 1, 2024),

[22] Office of the Attorney General, Seniors: Virginia Triad Resources,

[23]  Office of the Attorney General, Publications for Seniors,