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Protecting Older Adults from Financial Fraud and Scams

Knowing how to spot a scam, and following some tips can help protect older family members and younger adults too from financial fraud and scams.

Scams are on the rise. Reported losses due to fraud and scams totaled $12.5 Billion in 2023 up from $10.3 Billion in 20221. Older adults are increasingly the target of financial scams with people aged 60 and older having the greatest losses but reporting fraud the least.2

Scammers often pursue adults aged 60+ or older. There are a few reasons for this: older adults typically have larger sums of money and, if retired, have more time to engage with unsolicited contact. To compound the issue, they tend to be less trained on internet safety. But knowing how to spot a scam can help you beat it.

Know the scams

Scam artists will send their target an unsolicited email, text message, or telephone them – a practice known as phishing - impersonating a legitimate company or person and requesting personal, financial, and/or login credentials.

They use dating applications (apps), social media platforms, professional networking sites, or encrypted messaging apps to target victims. These communications can look legitimate but don’t be fooled, they are not. Below are some of the most common scams.

  • Scam 1: Tech support scam

    In this scenario, a scammer posing as a technical support representative calls to claim there is an issue with your computer and asks for remote access to resolve the issue. Once you provide this access, the scammer may request payment for technical assistance, install malicious software, change settings to leave your computer vulnerable, and/or steal your financial information.

  • Scam 2: Investment scam, frequently involving cryptocurrency

    This scheme usually begins with a criminal using a fictitious identity to develop a relationship and build rapport with their victims. Once trust is established, criminals introduce cryptocurrency claiming to have expertise, or an affiliation with experts, who can help potential investors achieve financial success. Criminals then coach and convince victims to use fraudulent websites or apps, controlled by the criminals, to invest, sometimes showing fake profits and encouraging victims to invest more. When victims attempt to withdraw their money, they may be told they need to pay a fee or taxes. Victims are unable to get their money back, even if they pay the imposed fees or taxes. The criminal then disappears.

  • Callers can “spoof” the caller ID to make an incoming call appear to be coming from a trusted source. Voice impersonation is becoming easier with scammers now using AI to "clone" a loved one's voice.

  • Scam 3: Grandparent scam

    Scammers can gain access to consumers' personal information and then create storylines to prey on the fears of grandparents. In this scam, the criminal calls impersonating a grandchild – or another close relative who is in a crisis – claiming to be in an accident or arrested, and asking for immediate financial assistance, often in the form of gift cards. Sometimes these callers “spoof” the caller ID to make an incoming call appear to be coming from a trusted source. Voice impersonation is becoming easier with scammers now using AI to "clone" a loved one's voice.

  • Scam 4: Romance and other relationships scam

    Scammers use online dating sites and apps, social media, and chat rooms to create fake profiles and build relationships. After gaining your trust, they request you send money for a hardship, ask you to open an account or deposit checks on their behalf, or direct you to invest in cryptocurrency or other business opportunities.

If an unsolicited call, email, or text look as if it is from Wells Fargo Advisors, do not respond. Contact your Financial Advisor or Wells Fargo Advisors directly.

Tips to protect yourself

There are a few tips you can follow to help protect yourself from scams

  1. Do not answer or respond to unsolicited emails, texts, or phone calls, even if they may appear legitimate.
    • If you receive any type of unexpected communication which may claim to be “urgent” - text, email, phone call or voice message - do not respond. Do not click on any links. Take a pause.
    • If an unsolicited call, email, or text look as if it is from Wells Fargo Advisors, do not respond. Contact your Financial Advisor or Wells Fargo Advisors directly to validate the message is legitimate.
  2. Verify the caller’s identity
    • Add those you know in your contact list on your phone. (family, friends, doctor's office, financial advisor, etc.). Then silence/block unknown callers.
    • Ask the caller a question that only the real person would know.
    • Consider creating a safety phrase to share with family members to confirm their identities in case they contact you with an emergency.
  3. Be tech security savvy
    • Update all security patches and antivirus software regularly.
    • Do not purchase any software or services from an unsolicited call or email. Never give control of your computer to anyone who contacts you.
    • If you receive a call about a computer problem, hang up. Do not provide your personal or financial information, including your online banking password or access code to anyone claiming to be technical support.
    • Protect your accounts and yourself online - create strong passwords, use biometric authentication, and activate 2-Step Verification on your accounts for an additional layer of security. Visit Fraud Prevention and Cybersecurity Tips for more information.
  4. Do not send money in any form- (wires—especially crypto, gift cards, deposits in accounts) to anyone you do not know personally, or to “help” anyone you’ve met online.
    • Do not release any financial or personal identifying information.
    • Do not invest per the advice of someone you meet solely online.
    • And if you already invested funds and believe you are a victim of a scheme, do not pay any additional fees or taxes to withdraw your money. Do not pay for services that claim to be able to recover lost funds.
  5. Do not send money in any form to anyone you do not know personally or to "help" anyone you've met online.

  6. Guard your personal information
    • Do not share your passwords, PIN numbers, or one-time passcodes if you did not initiate a transaction.
    • Do not give personal information, account numbers, or credit card information to someone you recently met online.
  7. Be wary of unsolicited online relationships.
    • Do not accept deposits into your account or send money to "help" anyone you have met online.
    • Be wary of anyone who quickly professes love but will not meet with you in person or on a video call. They may say that they are working overseas on an oil rig, in the military or do not have money to visit.

To provide additional account security, consider designating a Trusted Contact for your Wells Fargo Advisors accounts.

What to do if you suspect you’ve been scammed

  • If you are unsure, if something seems “fishy,” or if you’re solicited for any amount of money, talk to your trusted network (neighbors, family, your financial advisor) before sending any money
  • Suspect an older adult is experiencing financial abuse or fraud? Be sure to file an elder fraud complaint with the FBI.
  • To report fraud on a Wells Fargo or Wells Fargo Advisors account, contact us immediately.
  • If you suspect something is wrong with your computer or believe the scammer obtained access to it, bring it to a reputable company for a malware check.

Resources

For more information and tips to help protect yourself from fraud and scams, visit the Wells Fargo Security Center.

Learn about other cyber threats and scams.

Read more about scammers are using AI to target their victims and carry out scams.

To learn more about common elder fraud and scams visit:

AARP Scams and Fraud

National Center on Elder Abuse

Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2023 Elder Fraud Report


1 2023 FBI Internet Crime Report.
2 FTC Fraud Report- Fraud Reports | Tableau Public