RIVERSIDE — Today, on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a consumer alert warning Californians against common scams targeting the senior population. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, financial exploitation and fraud is the most prevalent — but one of the least reported — forms of elder abuse. Each year, older adults lose nearly $3 billion to financial scams. In today’s alert, Attorney General Bonta provides Californians with information about common scams targeting seniors and important tips for seniors and their loved ones to avoid falling victim to financial abuse or fraud.
“California’s seniors deserve to live healthy, happy, and financially secure lives,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Unfortunately, bad actors continue to target seniors in fraudulent financial schemes. On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, I urge California seniors and their loved ones to be vigilant about the common predatory scams targeting the elderly population. I encourage everyone to learn about financial scams and to report any fraudulent activity to law enforcement. On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and every day, the California Department of Justice remains committed to protecting our seniors from all forms of fraud and abuse.”
“With a focus on health security, financial stability, and personal fulfillment, AARP California advocates on behalf of older adults and their families on many critical priorities and works to make our communities more livable for Californians of all ages,” said AARP California Regional Director Luis Campillo. “But some of our most important work is helping older adults and their families protect themselves against fraud and scams through our Fraud Watch Network. If you’ve been the victim of a fraud or suspect something may be a scam, contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or visit aarp.org/fraud.”
“It is perfectly understandable why a senior may be reluctant to report they were victimized through a scam or elder abuse,” said Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez. “Reporting suspected fraud helps law enforcement to not only catch and put away these scammers and recover any financial losses, but to prevent them from doing it to others.”
If you are a senior or older adult, or a caretaker or loved one, below are some common scams you should look out for:
CALL CENTER FRAUD OR PHONE SCAMS
Call center fraud or phone scams involve fraudulent activities conducted over the phone by individuals or groups. Some common types of these kinds of scams are:
- Tech support scams, in which scammers pretend to be helpful tech support representatives claiming that your computer or device is facing a technical issue or is infected with malware.
- Government impersonation scams, in which scammers pretend to be representatives from trusted government agencies and trick you into providing personal information or making payments.
- Prize, lottery, or sweepstake scams, in which scammers contact you to tell you that you’ve won something exciting, and then ask you to pay a fee, taxes, or customs duties in order to receive your winnings.
- If someone claims to represent a company or organization, independently verify their identity by contacting the official phone number or customer support line listed on their website.
- Be cautious with unsolicited calls and avoid sharing personal or financial information or making payments over the phone.
- Register your phone number on the national Do Not Call Registry (in countries where available) to reduce the number of unwanted telemarketing calls.
These kinds of scams come in the form of investment opportunities that are sold as "too good to pass up," and include Ponzi schemes, pyramid schemes, pump-and-dump schemes, and offshore investment fraud. The scammers promise their victims high returns or guaranteed profits but leave them instead with significant financial losses.
How to protect yourself:
- Before investing, research the company or individual involved thoroughly. Talk to family and friends and trusted financial professionals.
- If an investment opportunity promises extremely high returns with little to no risk, be skeptical. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Do not let anyone pressure you into making rushed decisions. Take your time to evaluate the opportunity, consult with professionals, research the company and investment opportunity thoroughly, and make informed choices.
- Get everything in writing, including the investment terms, risks, and potential returns. Read and understand the documents before making any commitments.
In a "friend or family" scam, scammers pretend to be someone you know, like a grandchild or a friend, and tell you they are in urgent need of money — maybe to bail them out of jail, or because they’re stranded in a foreign country, or for a medical emergency. When a loved one is in trouble, it’s natural to want to jump to their aid, quickly and without questioning. That’s why these kinds of scams are easy to fall for.
These types of scammers can be very convincing, especially since scammers may use your social media information or hack into a loved one’s account to get personal details in order to convince them they are real. But remember, if the person is contacting you out of the blue and is trying to create a sense of urgency by playing on your emotions or using emergencies or other distressing situations, these are warning signs of a scam. Other warning signs include avoiding answering specific questions about personal details or shared experiences, or asking you to keep the situation a secret.
How to protect yourself:
- If you get a request like this, ask questions that only your real loved one would know, like personal details or shared memories.
- Contact your loved one directly using a known and trusted phone number or email address.
- Take your time. Scammers often try to rush you into making quick decisions. Take a step back, think carefully, and consult other family members or friends before sending money or sharing sensitive information — even if you’ve been asked to keep it a secret.
In romance scams, the scammer pretends to be interested in a romantic relationship to gain your trust and eventually steal your money. They use online dating platforms, social media, or email to initiate contact and develop a fake emotional connection. They may express deep love, sympathy, or vulnerability, making you believe that you have found a genuine connection with them. Then they’ll make a sudden request for money to deal with an emergency or to meet some other urgent need.
You may likely be dealing with a scammer if:
- Your romantic interest sends you photos that look too perfect to be real.
- They profess their love to you quickly.
- They lavish you with texts, emails and phone calls to draw you in.
- They repeatedly promise to meet in person but never follow through.
- They make a sudden request for money to deal with an emergency or great investment. Scammers like to create a sense of urgency.
- Don’t send money or share your personal or financial information with someone you haven’t met in person.
- Use various search engines to look up a person’s photos and details to see if these have been used elsewhere.
- Trust your instincts: If something seems too good to be true, it most likely is.
- Calling the hotline:
Phone toll-free: (800) 722-0432
- Or submitting a complaint online at: