Phone Scams Targeting Seniors

Dr. Sherry McCoy PhD

is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles.  Follow SSSAP on Facebook .  For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at  Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or

“Phone Scams Targeting Seniors”

Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD – Stop Senior Scams ℠Acting Program

It’s September 2018 and summer is almost over! Time flies by quickly, doesn’t it? Hopefully, we’ve made some progress over the past eight months in our awareness about frauds that target seniors and what we can do to protect ourselves.  Perhaps we are a bit more savvy about the subject than we were back in January.  And maybe we’re a lot more savvy!  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that the scammers and con artists have probably gotten savvier, too!  They’re upping their game all the time.  We have to stay at least one step ahead of them. The best way to do that is to continue to educate ourselves, to keep learning about fraud.  Knowledge is power!  Here is a brief description of five of the most common phone scams that fraudsters use to target seniors. (

GRANDPARENTS SCAM – You get a phone call from someone claiming to be a “friend” of your grandchild.  The so-called “friend” informs you that your grandchild is in jail, perhaps, in some foreign country and needs you to send a large sum of money for bail in order to get your grandchild released.  The “friend” will want you to wire the money, and ask you not to tell anyone about it.

IRS SCAM – In this scam, you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be a police officer OR an IRS agent.  The scammer tells you that you owe past due taxes and that if you don’t pay immediately, you will be arrested and / or your property confiscated.  The fraudster will demand you wire the money or use a prepaid card.

JURY DUTY SCAM – In this scam, the fraudster says he or she is calling from the courthouse and that you have failed to show up for jury duty.  Further, the caller says a warrant has been issued for your arrest and you have two options – 1) pay the warrant via money transfer or prepaid card, OR 2) don’t pay the warrant, and an officer will come to your house and arrest you.

LOTTERY SCAM – Someone identifying him or herself as an official of a foreign lottery calls to let you know that you have won a big prize!  All you have to do to claim your prize is send money for taxes or processing fees.

UTILITY SCAM – The caller says he or she is from the utility company and claims you are behind in your paying your utility bill. If you don’t pay immediately, your utility services will be cut off.  Again, the fraudster will likely ask that you use a money transfer or prepaid card to pay your overdue bill and avoid utility shut off.

With the exception of the Lottery Scam, all of the above scams are based on fear.  Fear that something terrible has happened to your grandchild and if you don’t do something about it, it will be your fault.  Fear that you owe back taxes and that the IRS is now after you for a criminal offense.  Fear that you have failed to turn up for jury duty, which is against the law, and you are a bad person.  Fear that you have overdue utility bills and your service is about to be cut off because of your negligence.  The scammers are gambling on the idea that your fear will be the guiding force that will cause you to send them your hard-earned cash.  Why?  Because they know that when people act out of fear, they make poor choices.

In the case of the Lottery Scam, the scammers are hoping you will believe their lie that you have won a big prize.  Maybe you need the extra money.  Who doesn’t?  Maybe you’ll be so excited that you have won a prize, you won’t stop to remember that you never bought a foreign lottery ticket.  How could you win a prize if you never entered the contest?  Whether it’s a scam based on fear or excitement, it’s all psychological warfare.  None of this is true.  Use your powers of discernment to steer clear of fraud.  And if you feel you have been the target or victim of a scam, take action. For Medicare fraud, contact the Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-855-613-7080; contact the FTC at 877-382-4357 or other types of fraud.  PASS IT ON!  Together we can stand strong against senior fraud!

Remember:  You may be a target, but you don’t have to be a victim!

Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD, is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams ℠Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles.  Save the Dates – SSSAP performs (free):  Sept. 8, 3:30pm, Northridge Branch Library, 9051 Darby, Northridge, CA 91325; and Sept. 12, 11am-2pm, Harbor Area Senior Federation Club Fun Day at Peck Park, 560 N. Western Ave., San Pedro, CA 90732. We are looking for seniors to participate in our SSSAP volunteer touring company, which was recently recognized by the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging.  For more information, please contact Adrienne Omansky at  Follow SSSAP on Facebook at  Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or

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