According to the Maryland Department of Aging, financial exploitation can be devastating—emotionally and financially. Hundreds of cases of financial exploitation of older and vulnerable adults are reported in Maryland each year; however, these hundreds of cases are estimated to be only a fraction of the thousands of cases that go unreported in our state. Exploiters can be strangers who swindle through the mail, phone, or internet. In far too many cases, however—the vast majority—the exploiters are family and “friends.” Financial exploitation of seniors can be especially devastating because seniors have fewer years of employment to make up the funds they have lost and in many cases the victims may have already retired.

Scammers can use email, phone/robocalls, and the computer/pop-up ads to target the elderly who often have substantial savings, a good credit rating and own their homes making them even more appealing to the con artist. Scammers create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure victims into immediate action.

Common financial scams include: 

  • Romance Scams using dating/chat/social sites to gain the victim’s trust and request money in the name of love.
  • Lottery/Sweepstakes scams request winners pay certain fees to claim their prize.
  • Social Security Administration Imposters claim suspicious activity related to victim’s social security number.
  • Grandparent Scams involve imposters claiming to be a grandchild in trouble and need money wired to fix the problem.
  • Tech Support Specialists request remote computer access to fix non-existent computer problems and to gain access to confidential information like bank accounts and passwords.
  • IRS Imposters claim victim owes money to IRS and must pay through store gift cards or wire transfers.
  • Coronavirus Scams ask victims to pay for early access, to be put on a waiting list or have the vaccine mailed to them. Visit Maryland Department of Aging Slam the Scam for more information.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones:

  • Educate your elderly loved ones about financial abuses and the signs to be aware of.
  • End all communication with scammers.
  • Do not click or open email or attachments from unfamiliar email addresses.
  • Contact your financial institution to put protective measures in place on your accounts.
  • Slow down. Call a relative, friend, your bank representative or someone you trust if you see any of the signs mentioned here before doing anything.
  • Do your online homework and research the scammer’s information (name, email, etc.). Chances are other potential victims have posted their attempted scam experience.

Get help. If you or someone you know has been a victim of elder abuse, below are contacts for assistance:

Maryland Adult Protective Services 24/7 Hotline: 1-800-917-7383.

Maryland Statewide Abuse Reporting Number: 1-800-332-6347.

National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311), or Adult Protective Services at 1-800-917-7383 for assistance.

The U.S. Department of Justice's National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833–FRAUD–11 (833–372–8311). The hotline is staffed by counselors and case-managers every day 6am to 11pm.

Call 9-1-1 if you are in immediate danger.

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