How to assist seniors in fighting fraud

Tips By April Payne Jun 14, 2019

It is important to teach seniors the warning signs of a scam so they can defend themselves from potential fraud. June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month, which makes it the perfect time to sit down with your loved ones and help them learn how to spot a scam.

Scammers are master manipulators. You may have heard of the “grandparent scam” that preys on seniors and tries to take advantage of their emotions. A grandparent will receive a call in the middle of the night from someone claiming to be their grandchild. The caller will say that they are they are in trouble in a foreign city, they need bail money immediately, and that they need this to be kept a secret from the rest of the family. The caller will tell the victim where to wire the money, and many grandparents do not hesitate to act. The truth, of course, is that there is no emergency and the grandchild is safe; it’s the scammer who receives the funds rather than the grandchild.


If you know someone with grown grandkids, share these tips with them to help them be prepared:

  • Understand the power of suggestion. This is simply human nature. All the scammer has to say is “Grandpa?” And the victim often fills in the rest: “Is that you, Josh?”
  • Be prepared. Scammers can piece together enough information about you and your family from the internet and social media to convincingly pose as your loved one on the phone. Come up with a short list of specific questions that only your family can answer to be sure you are not talking to a scammer.
  • Always verify. Take down the number but don’t send anything until you can independently confirm your family member is, in fact, having an emergency. Call or text your grandchild. The easiest way to verify is to try contacting your grandchild directly on their normal phone number.
  • Call the parents anyway. The scam artist is counting on your loyalty to help them get cash. Don’t let them pressure you.

If you know someone who has received one of these phone calls and they sent money via Western Union, report it immediately.

Western Union is a great way to get cash to family and friends, but you should never send money for an urgent situation without first verifying that it is a real emergency. For more information on common scams, visit Western Union’s Fraud Awareness Center